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Shrila Lokanatha Goswami
Shrila Bhugarbha Goswami
lokanathakhya-gosvami shri-lila-manjari pura |
Lokanatha Goswami was known as Lila Manjari in Krishna lila. (Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 187)
Lokanatha is considered to be Mahaprabhu’s direct disciple and associate. Prior to coming to Nabadwip, he lived in the village of Talakharii in Jessore district in what is now Bangla Desh. Prior to that, he lived in Kacna Paria. His father’s name was Padmanabha Chakravarti and his mother Sita Devi. The Bhakti-ratnakara quotes an old verse which confirms this:
padmanabhatmajam shrimal-lokanatha-prabhum bhaje ||
I worship Lokanatha Prabhu, the son of Padmanabha, whose life revolved around the wealth of service he possessed in his deity Radhavinoda. (Bhakti-ratnakara 1.297)
The descendants of Lokanatha’s brother, Pragalbha Bhattacharya are still living in Talakharii. Bhugarbha Goswami was Lokanatha’s closest friend and constant companion. He was Prema Manjari in Vraja (Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 187).
bhugarbha-thakkurasyasit purvakhya prema-manjari.
According to the Sadhana-dipika, Bhugarbha was Lokanatha’s paternal uncle. The Shakha-nirnayamrita adds the following comments on Bhugarbha Goswami:
gosvaminam ca bhugarbham bhugarbhottham suvishrutam |
sada mahashayam vande krishna-prema-pradam prabhum ||
shrila-govinda-devasya seva-sukha-vilasinam |
dayalum premadam svaccham nityam ananda-vigraham ||
I offer my reverence to the illustrious Bhugarbha Prabhu, who is said to have been born from the bowels of the earth. He bestows love of Krishna; he takes pleasure in the service of Govinda Deva, is compassionate, simple and always joyful.
Bhugarbha Goswami’s initiating guru was Gadadhara Pandit Goswami. He is therefore considered to be Gadadhara’s branch. Shri Bhagavata Das, a fellow disciple of Shrila Gadadhara Pandit Goswami, was also a close friend.
Bhugarbha and Bhagavata Das are branches of Gadadhara Pandit, both of whom went to live in Vrindavan. (Chaitanya Charitamrita Adi, 12.81)
Lokanatha and Bhugarbha go to Vraja
Lokanatha Goswami renounced the householder ashrama in 1431 of the Shaka era (1510) and came to meet Mahaprabhu in Nabadwip. Mahaprabhu immediately told him to go and live in Vrindavan, telling him that it was his own intention to take sannyas very shortly and go there himself. Lokanatha started to cry when he imagined the Lord with his beautiful curls shorn and the distress the devotees would feel at his departure. When the Lord saw Lokanatha’s anxiety, he embraced him and consoled him with various spiritual instructions and Lokanatha surrendered completely to him. When Bhugarbha saw how unhappy Lokanatha was, he decided to accompany him to Vrindavan. The two companions walked through Rajmahal, Tajpur, Purniya, Lukhnow and many holy places before finally arriving in Braj.
Though he had come to Vrindavan on Mahaprabhu’s order, he constantly felt intense separation from the Lord, shedding copious tears in his desire to see him again. When he got the news that Mahaprabhu had taken sannyas and then gone to Puri and thence to the South on pilgrimage, Lokanatha hurried to Southern India in order to join him. When he arrived in the South, he heard that Mahaprabhu was no longer there, but had gone to Vrindavan. Lokanatha immediately set off for Vrindavan, hoping to see the Lord there, but by the time he arrived, he heard that the Lord was now in Prayag. Lokanatha was disappointed, but still determined to see the Lord and decided to set off again for Prayag.
This time, however, Mahaprabhu appeared to him in a dream and told him to stop running around and remain in Vrindavan and do his bhajana. Not long afterwards, Rupa, Sanatan, Gopal Bhatta Goswamis and others of the Lord’s associates started coming to live in Braj. Their association cheered him immensely.
When Rupa was getting old and unable to walk all the way to Govardhana, he missed being able to see Gopal. When this desire became strong, Gopal came to stay at the house of Vitöhaleshvara in Mathura, ostensibly out of fear of Muslim iconoclasts, but actually to show mercy to Rupa Goswami. The deity stayed there for a month, during which time Rupa came for his darshan with Lokanatha and other Gaudiya Vaishnavas.
The extent to which Bhugarbha Goswami was dear to Lokanatha is described in Bhakti-ratnakara:
Lokanatha’s affection for Bhugarbha was well known everywhere. They only had different bodies, in spirit they were one. (Bhakti-ratnakara 1.317)
Gopal Bhatta Goswami was extremely compassionate. Bhugarbha and Lokanatha are a goldmine of virtues. (Bhakti-ratnakara 6.510)
Lokanatha Goswami worshiped Radha and Krishna in a state of separation, increasing the intensity of his renunciation. He was afraid of the slightest amount of fame. Thus he forbad Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami to write anything about him in the Chaitanya Charitamrita, with the result that only his name can be found mentioned there. Sanatan Goswami has also mentioned his name in the mangalacarana to the Hari-bhakti-vilasa, as well as in that to the Vaishnava-toshani commentary to the tenth canto of the Shrimad Bhagavatam.
vrindavana-priyan vande shri-govinda-padashritan |
shrimat-kashishvaram lokanatham shri-krishnadasakam ||
I pay obeisance to Kashishvara, Lokanatha and Krishnadas, to whom residence in Vrindavan is very dear and who have taken shelter of Govinda’s lotus feet.
Lokanatha and Radhavinoda
Lokanatha Goswami constantly travelled through Braj, ecstatically visiting the various holy places where Krishna had engaged in his pastimes. Once, he came to Khadiravana. Then he visited Kishori Kund near the village of Umarao by Chatravana. He was so impressed by the beauty of the site that he stayed there for some time to do his bhajana in isolation. After being engaged in this way for some time, he developed a deep desire to worship Radha and Krishna in the deity form.
The Lord knows the desires of his devotees and feels himself obliged to fulfill them. He came personally to give Lokanatha a deity, telling him that its name was Radhavinoda before disappearing. Lokanatha was astonished to see the deity and then filled with anxiety at the thought that the Lord himself had come and gone. But Radhavinoda cast his sweet glance on Lokanatha and said to him, “I live here on the banks of Kishori Kund in the village of Umarao. I saw your eagerness to serve me and so I came here myself. Who else would have brought me to you? I am very hungry. Quickly prepare something for me to eat.”
When he heard these words, tears began to flow from Lokanatha’s eyes. He quickly started cooking for Radhavinoda and then made an offering which the deity ate with great satisfaction. He then made him a bed of flowers upon which he placed him, fanned him with branches and joyfully massaged his feet. Lokanatha devoted himself in body, mind and soul to Radhavinoda.
He wondered where he would keep the deity, and decided to make a large bag which became Radhavinoda’s temple. He kept his worshipable Lord constantly close to his heart like a necklace. This attracted the people of Braj to Lokanatha and they wanted to built a house for him and his deity, but he refused. He was so renounced that he accepted nothing other than what he absolutely needed for the deity’s service.
Narottama Das becomes Lokanatha’s disciple
After spending some time at Kishori Kund, Lokanatha came to Vrindavan. He learned that Rupa and Sanatan had ended their pastimes in this world and lamented their passing in great sadness. At around this time, Narottama Das, who was the son of the Raja Krishnananda Datta of Gopalpura in Rajsahi (now in Bangla Desh), came to Vrindavan and met him there. When Mahaprabhu told Nityananda to go to Puri, he cried in ecstasy in a place on the banks of the Padmavati river which is now known as Prematila. He buried his love there for Narottama’s later benefit.Years later, when Narottama took his bath in the river at that spot, he was immediately overcome with divine love and decided to cut off all family ties and go to Vrindavan.
Upon his arrival in Braj, Narottama met Rupa, Sanatan and Lokanatha. He received Lokanatha’s special mercy, for he became his one and only disciple. Lokanatha was extremely renounced and had made a vow not to take any disciples. Narottama Das too made a vow — to take initiation from no one other than Lokanatha. Narottama repeatedly asked Lokanatha to give him initiation, but Lokanatha was firm in his refusal. In order to win his favor, Narottama went in the middle of the night to clean the place he used as a toilet. Lokanatha was so surprised to see that the place was being kept clean by someone that he became curious to to find out who it was. One evening, he went and hid there, chanting japa the entire night in wait for the anonymous benefactor.
At midnight, he saw someone engaged in cleaning the place and asked him who he was. When he found out that Narottama, the son of a raja, was engaged in doing such a filthy task, he felt embarrassed and asked him what his purpose was in doing it. Narottama immediately began to cry. He fell at Lokanatha’s feet and said, “My life is useless unless I obtain your mercy.” When Lokanatha saw Narottama’s humility and pain, his resolve to never give anyone initiation softened and gave him the mantras.
This is a perfect example of how one can win over the worshipable deity through honest and selfless service. Narottama Das took initiation from Lokanatha on the full moon day of the month of Shravan. Lokanatha and Narottama engaged in this pastime to show the value of selfless and sincere service to the entire world, but especially to the people of northern Bengal. Lokanatha was a very renounced Vaishnava, but he saw in Narottama someone who not only had a cultured background, but an enthusiasm and taste for dealing with people. As a result, he asked him to go back to his homeland to preach Krishna consciousness.
When one has taken full shelter of the Supreme Lord and is situated on the transcendental platform in full service to the Lord, then he usually has no enthusiasm for engaging in activities for the welfare of people on the bodily platform. When a devotee goes against this principle, such activities increase in prestige. On the order of his spiritual master, Narottama returned to northern Bengal and began to preach pure devotional service and thus delivered the people of that country.
In his collection of songs known as Prarthana, Narottama Das Thakur has written:
After suffering much sadness, O Lord, you brought me to Braj, pulling me by the rope of mercy which you had tied around my neck. Maya and fate forced me back into the well of material existence by cutting loose that rope of mercy.
Lokanatha Goswami left this world somewhere around 1510 Shaka (1588-9 AD) in the month of Asharh, on the eighth day of the dark moon. His samadhi tomb is found in the Radha Gokulananda temple in Vrindavan. His Radhavinoda deity is also being served in the same temple.
Shri Subuddhi Raya
Nothing is known about Subuddi Raya’s birthplace or his parents. His life is memorable because he received Mahaprabhu’s association and special blessings. In the first part of his life, he became the king of Gaudadesha. [FN: According to Ashutosha Deva’s Bengali dictionary, Gauda was the name of the ancient capital of Bengal in Malda district, from which the entire Bengali kingdom took its name. On the other hand, Hari Das Das writes in his Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana that, according to the Skanda Purana, there were five Gaudas, by which were meant the kingdoms of Sarasvata, Kanyakubja, Utkala (Orissa), Maithila, and Bengal, but that the name was primarily used for the region lying between East Bengal (Banga) and Mithila. Vijaya Sena of Karnaöaka came and became the king of Gauda and his descendants were known as Gaudeshvara. Vijaya Sena’s son Ballala Sena established the city of Gauda on the banks of the Ganges. The course of the Ganges has since moved. Previously, all Bengalis were known as Gaudiyas, but the name has become synonymous with Vaishnavas who follow Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.]
Subuddhi Raya was born in a Brahmin family and was well-known for his scholarship. While he was king of Gauda, Hussein Shah was his protigi.Previously, Subuddhi was the master of Bengal and Hussein Khan Sayyid worked for him. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.25.180).
Subuddhi put Hussein Khan in charge of digging a big tank, but because of mistakes made by the latter, punished him by having him whipped. Subsequently, Hussein Khan himself became the king of Gauda. Nevertheless, because of the help which Subuddhi had given him in the past, continued to treat him with a great deal of respect. The scars of the flogging he had received from Subuddhi remained on his body, however, and one day Hussein Shah’s queen asked where they came from. When the King told his wife the story, she became angry and incited her husband to punish Subuddhi by putting him to death. Hussein Shah refused to go to such extremes, and so his wife suggested that he punish him by bringing about his caste falldown. The King refused to do this because he knew that doing so would be tantamount to killing him. His wife insisted, however, even threatening to kill herself if he did not do something. Finally, he was obliged to give in to his wife and he gave water to Subuddhi to drink, which according to the Hindu rules of the time meant that he lost his caste status.
Even prior to these events Subuddhi had become completely detached from material life. He took this opportunity to leave his home and family and go to live in Varanasi. There he inquired from the Smarta Brahmanas how to go about atoning for the loss of caste status. They told him that he should commit suicide by drinking boiling ghee. In the Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana, it is said that it was common to be told to atone by jumping into a fire of chaff, i.e., a fire which is not easily extinguished. Others, however, objected that such a heavy punishment did not fit the minor nature of the offense. As a result of this difference of opinion amongst the Brahmins, Subuddhi Raya hesitated.
When Mahaprabhu came to Varanasi, Subuddhi came to see him and recounted the whole story from beginning to end. The Lord recommended to him that he go to Vrindavan and chant the names of Krishna.The Lord said, <Leave here and go to Vrindavan. Chant the holy names of Krishna constantly. The shadow of the Name will destroy any sins you may have committed. If you go on chanting, you will attain Krishna’s lotus feet. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.25.191-3)
On the Lord’s order, Subuddhi Raya set off for Vrindavan, stopping in Prayag, Ayodhya and Naimisharanya, where he stayed for some time. When he finally arrived in Mathura, he learned that the Lord had already left for Prayag and that he had thus missed him. In distress and separation, Subuddhi became very renounced. He made his living by gather dry wood from the jungle and selling it in Mathura. He subsisted on the little money that he made from this work, eating only dried chick peas to keep body and soul together. Even so, he was able to put some money aside which he used for serving the Bengali Vaishnavas, feeding them with rice and yogurt.
Subuddhi Raya gathered dry wood and sold it in Mathura, receiving five or six paisa for each load. He spent only one paisa for food, eating dried chick peas. The rest of the money was kept with a businessman. Whenever he saw Vaishnavas in distress, he would feed them and when Gaudiya Vaishnavas arrived in town, he would provide them with rice, yogurt and mustard oil for rubbing on the body. (Chaitanya Charitamrita Madhya 25.197-9)
Rupa Goswami was extremely happy when he saw Subuddhi Raya’s renunciation and service to the Vaishnavas. Subuddhi took Rupa with him to visit all the holy sites in Vraja-mandala. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.25.200) It is clear from this that service to the Vaishnavas is not restricted to the very rich. Even a poor person will find the means to serve Vishnu and the Vaishnavas if he has a sincere desire to do so. By the will of the Lord, he will never have any shortage. This is the example set by Subuddhi Raya’s holy life.
When Sanatan Goswami was walking from Varanasi to Mathura, he took the main road from Prayag on the Lord’s order. In the meantime, Rupa and Anupama had taken the road along the banks of the Ganges in order to meet Mahaprabhu in Prayag. When Sanatan met Subuddhi in Mathura, he learned from him that he had missed Rupa and Anupama. Subuddhi showed a great deal of affection for Sanatan as he had known him in his previous life as a government minister. He wanted to serve him, but Sanatan did not wish to accept his service.
Subuddhi Raya spent the rest of his life in Vrindavan worshiping the Lord by chanting the Holy Names in great renunciation. In this way he followed the order of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The date of his death is unknown.
Shri Rupa Goswami
shri-rupa-manjari khyata yasid vrindavane pura |
sadya rupakhya-gosvami bhutva prakaöatam iyat ||
She who was known in Vrindavan as Rupa Manjari has now appeared as Rupa Goswami. (Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 180)
Lalita is chief amongst the sakhis who make up Radharani’s entourage, and Rupa Manjari is the foremost amongst those sakhis who follow Lalita. It is for this reason that in the Gaura-lila, Rupa Goswami is the chief amongst the six Goswamis.
Rupa Goswami’s family tree
In the new Bengali dictionary edited by Ashutosh Deb, Rupa Goswami’s dates are given as 1489 to 1558 AD, or 1410-1479 of the Shaka era. In his earthly pastimes, Rupa was born in a Brahmin family of the Bharadvaja gotra which hailed from Karnaöaka, where they had been rajas. His father’s name was Kumara Deva. His mother’s name is not known. Narahari Chakravarti Thakur has given the names of seven generations of his family in Bhakti-ratnakara (1.540-568).
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur has summarized this family history in his Anubhashya: “Jagad-guru Sarvajna was a great soul who was born in a Brahmin raja family of the Bharadvaja gotra in the 12th century of the Shaka era. His son Aniruddha had two sons named Rupeshvara and Harihara, neither of whom inherited the land holdings. The older brother Rupeshvara went to live in the mountains and his son Padmanabha moved to Bengal, taking up residence in the village of Naihaöi on the banks of the Ganges. Padmanabha had five sons, the youngest of which was named Mukunda who fathered the pious Kumaradeva. Kumaradeva had several sons, amongst whom were Sanatan, Rupa and Anupama. Kumaradeva’s house was in the village of Bakla in Candradvipa.9 His house was in the village of Fateyabad in the Jessore district of that time. Three of his sons became Vaishnavas. These three brothers left the Fateyabad home to live in Ramakeli for their work. Jiva Goswami was born there. As a result of their service to the Nawab, all three of them were awarded the Mallik title. Mahaprabhu met Anupama for the first time when he came to Ramakeli. When Rupa Goswami abandoned his government duties to go to Vrindavan, he was accompanied by Anupama, who was also known as Vallabha.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.10.84 Anubhashya)
Rupa’s first meeting with the Lord
Mahaprabhu met Rupa and Sanatan Goswami for the first time beneath kadamba and tamal trees in Ramakeli village. Rupa Goswami had had a large tank excavated there which still exists, named Rupa-sagara. The three brothers were engaged in the service of the contemporary king of Gauda, Hussein Shah. Sanatan Goswami was his chief minister with the title Sakara Mallik, while Rup a Goswami was also an important minister with the title Dabir Khas. We have indication of this from the Chaitanya Charitamrita, where the Shah addresses him with this title.
When Mahaprabhu was travelling through Gauda on his way to Vrindavan, he arrived at Ramakeli surrounded by countless Hindus. With some concern, the Shah summoned Rupa Goswami to ask him who Mahaprabhu was. Rupa Goswami glorified Mahaprabhu in such a diplomatic way that the Shah’s mind was put at ease.
The king made private inquiries from Dabir Khas, who told him of Mahaprabhu’s glories. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.1.175)
Vrindavan Das Thakur also confirms definitively that Rupa was named Dabir Khas and Sanatan, Sakar Mallik.
In the Shesha-khanda [of the Chaitanya Bhagavat], the Lord revealed himself to Dabir Khas and recognizing their greatness, released them from their bondage. He then named them Rupa and Sanatan. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 1.2.171-2)
Then, two great fortunate souls came to the spot where the Lord was. The two brothers were named Sakar Mallik and Rupa. The Lord looked upon them with compassionate eyes. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 3.9.238-9)
Rupa and Sanatan were eternal participants in Krishna-lila. When it came time for them to make their contribution to Gaura-lila, Mahaprabhu and his associates arrived in their home village. While within the material nature, the Lord and his devotees make an effort to keep their transcendental natures hidden to facilitate spreading their teachings to the people in this world; however, when they come close to one other they cannot help but reveal this nature. Thus, as soon as Rupa and Sanatan saw Mahaprabhu, though they were naturally attracted to him, they behaved in the manner of conditioned souls in order to show the people of this world how to act.
When the Badshah heard that Mahaprabhu had come to Ramakeli with a company of thousands of Hindus, he was frightened and suspected Mahaprabhu of a political purpose. A certain Keshava Khatri who knew about the Lord explained to the Shah, “He is just a sannyasi, a beggar who is out on pilgrimage. A few people are accompanying him, but there is no need to be alarmed.” The Shah also consulted Rupa Goswami, who told him of Mahaprabhu’s glories and succeeded in calming his fears.
Being desirous of meeting the Lord themselves, Rupa and Sanatan left the palace in the middle of the night and came to Ramakeli. They first encountered Nityananda and Hari Das Thakur, who brought the two brothers into the presence of the Lord. Rupa and Sanatan placed some grass in their mouths and wrapped their cloths around their necks as a sign of humility. They fell down at the Lord’s lotus feet and, with tears in their eyes, made the following humble submission:
“We are millions of times more degraded, fallen and sinful than Jagai and Madhai. We are of wicked birth because we are the servants of Muslims and our activities are exactly like those of the Muslims. We constantly associate with people who are inimical toward the cows and Brahmins. Due to our abominable activities we are now bound by the neck and hands and have been thrown into a ditch filled with the excrement of evil sense enjoyment.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.1.196-199)
When the Lord heard the extreme humility of the two brothers, he became compassionate. Even so, from his response to their statement, it is clear that they were not ordinary conditioned souls, but his eternal associates.
“I really had no need to come to Bengal, but I came anyway just to see the two of you. No one knows my purpose and so people ask me why I have come to this village of Ramakeli. I am very glad that you have come to see me. Now you can go home; do not fear anything. You have been my servants in life after life, so Krishna will deliver you very soon.” After saying this, the Lord placed his hands on the heads of Rupa and Sanatan, and they immediately took the Lord’s lotus feet and placed them on their heads.(Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.1.212-6)
The Lord wished to teach that the conditioned soul is delivered by the mercy of the devotees, so he asked Nityananda, Hari Das, Shrivasa, Gadadhara, Mukunda, Jagadananda, Murari, Vakresvara and other of his associates to bless the two brothers.
Sanatan Prabhu then advised Mahaprabhu, “Dear Lord, you are going to Vrindavan with an entourage of hundreds and thousands of people, and this is not a fitting way to go on a pilgrimage.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.1.224) As a result of this advice, Mahaprabhu put off going to Vrindavan and turned back after going a little further, as far as Kanair Natshala.
Rupa resigns from the Shah’s service
From this meeting at Ramakeli, it is evident that Mahaprabhu intended to teach the people of this world through Rupa and Sanatan. Not long afterward, an intense spirit of renunciation awakened in the two brothers and they started looking for a way to extricate themselves from their entanglement in the service of the Shah. They paid two Brahmins a large sum of money to perform a purashcarana of the Krishna mantra on their behalf.10
Shrila Rupa Goswami finally resigned from his government service and on behalf of his older brother, he deposited 10,000 coins with a grocer in the capital, Gauda. Then he took the rest of their accumulated wealth with him in two boats to Bakla Candradvipa where he divided it up, giving half to the Vaishnavas and a quarter for the maintenance of his family, while setting the rest aside with a trustworthy Brahmin against future necessity. Then he sent two people to Puri to find out when Mahaprabhu intended to travel to Vrindavan taking the route through the jungle. In the meantime, Sanatan Goswami had stopped his functions in the court of the Shah. Though he claimed to be ill, he was in fact engaged in an intense study of the Bhagavat with a group of Sanskrit scholars. The Shah first sent a doctor to examine Sanatan and then, upon learning the truth of the matter, came himself to exhort him to return to work. When Sanatan showed a continued reluctance to engage in his duties, the Shah had him put in prison. He then departed to invade Orissa.
Rupa meets Mahaprabhu in Prayag
When Rupa received the news from his two messengers that Mahaprabhu had left for Vrindavan, he and Anupama left Bakla to try to join him. He sent a letter to Sanatan to let him know of their intentions, telling him to take any necessary steps to free himself and then to come and join them. When Rupa arrived in Prayag, he learned that Mahaprabhu was there at the house of a South Indian Brahmin. When Rupa found him there, he was overwhelmed with feelings of love for the Lord. He and Anupama put straw between their teeth and repeatedly paid their prostrated obeisances to the Lord, chanting various verses of praise and humility. The Lord felt great affection for the two brothers and said, “Krishna’s mercy is beyond description, for he has delivered you from the blind well of sensual existence.”
Mahaprabhu recited verses which stated that a devotee from a family of dog-eaters is dearer to the Lord than even a Brahmin who knows the four Vedas, and that a devotee of the Lord is as worshipable as the Lord himself. Then he showed his mercy to them by embracing them, and then by placing his lotus feet on their heads. The two brothers folded their hands and chanted the following verse to show their gratitude to the Lord for his mercy toward them:
namo mahavadanyaya krishna-prema-pradaya te |
krishnaya krishna-chaitanya-namne gaura-tvishe namah ||
I offer salutations to you
who are the most merciful incarnation;
you who give love for Krishna,
you who are Krishna,
who are named Krishna Chaitanya,
and whose skin is the color of gold. (LBhag, 1.1)
Mahaprabhu heard from Rupa Goswami that his brother Sanatan had been made prisoner by the Shah, but predicted that it would not be long before Sanatan escaped and met him. The South Indian Brahmin invited the two brothers to also stay with him and that day they ate Mahaprabhu’s remnants.
Meeting with Vallabha Bhatta
Meanwhile, news of Mahaprabhu’s arrival in Prayag crossed the Ganges to the village of Ariail where Vallabha Bhatta made his home. When Vallabha heard that the Lord had come, he immediately rushed to Prayag to meet him and fell to the ground in obeisance to him. Mahaprabhu embraced him and then the two engaged in conversation about Krishna. Vallabha Bhatta was astonished to see the ecstatic reactions of the Lord in the course of their discussions.
As soon as Rupa and Anupama saw Vallabha Bhatta, they paid obeisances to him from a distance out of humility. When he came forward to touch them, they both reacted by saying, “We are lowly untouchables. You should not contaminate yourself by touching us.” They then sat down at a certain distance.
Mahaprabhu was pleased by their display of humility, while Vallabha Bhatta was impressed. The Lord said to Bhatta, “You are an older, aristocratic Brahmin, while these two belong to a low caste. You should certainly not touch them.” Vallabha Bhatta was able to divine that there was some hidden meaning to the Lord’s utterance and he asked how they could be considered of a low caste when they chanted the name of Krishna.
Vallabha then invited the Lord and his entourage to come to his house to take prasad, Mahaprabhu was happy to accept. They embarked on a boat, but as they crossed the confluence of the Yamuna and the Ganga, Mahaprabhu was affected by the sight of the black waters of the Yamuna and began to dance ecstatically in the boat, causing everyone on board a great deal of anxiety and fear. Finally, Mahaprabhu jumped into the Yamuna’s waters and had to be helped on board again by all the devotees.
Vallabha Bhatta took the Lord to his house, washed his feet and then sprinkled this water on his own head. Then he performed an elaborate puja of the Lord with a variety of ingredients. Then he fed him with a great feast of numerous preparations, satisfying Rupa and Anupama with the Lord’s remnants. He gave the Lord a mouth purifier and then a place to rest. When the Lord lay down, he sat beside him and served him by massaging his feet. In this way, Vallabha Bhatta considered himself to have attained the highest good fortune. The Lord told Vallabha to take something to eat himself.
During this time, Raghupati Upadhyaya, a Brahmin from Tirhut arrived there. The Lord was ecstatic to hear the devotional verses which this Raghupati had composed. Mahaprabhu asked him to say what was the Supreme Lord’s superlative form, abode, age and last of all, what was the supreme worshipable object. Raghupati answered:
shyamam eva param rupam
puri madhu-puri vara |
vayah kaishorakam dhyeyam
adya eva paro rasah ||
The form of Shyamasundar is the supreme form,
the city of Mathura is the supreme abode,
Lord Krishna’s adolescence should always be meditated upon,
and the primary sentiment is supreme amongst the rasas. (Pv, 82)
Mahaprabhu was very pleased with this answer and embraced Raghupati Upadhyaya. All the inhabitants of the village became devotees of Krishna upon seeing Mahaprabhu. Vallabha Bhatta again took the Lord back to Prayag by boat.
Mahaprabhu instructs Rupa
Afraid of attracting crowds, Mahaprabhu stayed only ten days in Prayag, remaining incognito at the Dashashvamedha Ghat, where he instructed Rupa Goswami in Vaishnava dogma, explaining to him about the nature of Lord Krishna, devotion to him and sacred rapture.
The Lord taught Rupa the truths about Krishna, devotion to him, and sacred aesthetics, as well as the conclusions of the Bhagavat. He compassionately infused all the teachings he had heard from Ramananda Raya into Rupa. The Lord transferred his power into the heart of Rupa and made him expert in explaining all these teachings. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.19.105-7)
The teachings Mahaprabhu gave Rupa Goswami are known as Shri-rupa-shiksha. Shivananda Sena’s son, Kavi Karnapura, has described this event extensively in his Chaitanya-candrodaya-naöaka:
lupteti tam khyapayitum vishishya |
k rpamritenabhishisheca devas
tatraiva rupam ca sanatanam ca || (Chaitanya Charitamrita 9.38)
In the course of time,
tidings of Krishna’s amusements in Vrindavan had been lost.
To make them known again in detail
the Lord drenched Rupa and Sanatan with his mercy
in the very land of Vrindavan.
prema-svarupe sahajabhirupe |
nijanurupe prabhur eka-rupe
tatana rupe svavilasarupe ||
The Lord explained the rasa-shastra to Rupa Goswami,
in a way he did no other person, for Rupa was
the dear friend of Svarupa Damodar,
his true identity was that of the Lord’s beloved,
his nature was identical with love,
and he was also possessed of natural physical beauty.
Mahaprabhu knew him to be like unto himself,
and indeed, he was verily the expansion of the Lord. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 9.39)
Through Rupa Goswami, Mahaprabhu taught the world about Krishna’s Vrindavan pastimes and the process for attaining Krishna in Vrindavan. Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami writes, “Through the mercy of Sanatan I have learned the devotional doctrines, while by the grace of Rupa I have been able to discover the extensiveness of the divine aesthetics of devotion.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.5.203)
The Lord taught about sacred rapture and Vraja’s pastimes of love through Rupa Goswami. Who can effectively describe the subtleties of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s lila? (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.5.87)
kalena luptam nija-shaktim utkah |
sancarya rupe vyatanot punah sa
prabhor vidhau prag iva loka-srishöim ||
Just as the Lord enlightened the heart of Lord Brahma with the details of the creation and thus made the manifestation of the cosmos possible, so did Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu eagerly impregnate the heart of Rupa Goswami with spiritual potency so that he could revive Krishna’s Vrindavan pastimes which had almost been lost to memory. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.19.1)
While in Prayag, Mahaprabhu gave Rupa the direct order to write Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu. This has been stated by Rupa himself in the introductory verses to that book:
hridi yasya preranaya pravartito’ham varaka-rupo’ pi |
tasya hareh pada-kamalam vande chaitanya-devasya ||
I worship the lotus feet
of the Supreme Personality of Godhead,
known as Lord Chaitanya-deva,
for by his inspiration I have set out to write this book
even though I am nothing but a ignorant wretch. (Brs 1.1.2)
Particularly relevant in this connection is Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur’s commentary on the importance of studying and writing books as an element of devotional practice: “The lives of the Goswamis were exemplary in their renunciation. Sometimes they would engage in chanting the holy names of the Lord, sometimes they would worship him by writing books on divine aesthetics, and sometimes they would remember or glorify Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. There is an idea which has some currency amongst the prakrita-sahajiyas that devotional practice entails the renunciation of studying and writing devotional scriptures, indeed that any kind of scriptural study should be stopped so that one can attain to a state of ignorance. Those who follow in the footsteps of Rupa Goswami have no patience with such ideas. However, if a devotional practitioner studies or writes devotional scriptures for the sake of making money through which to satisfy his material senses or attain material fame, respect or any of the other insignificant and superficial goals which are classed as distractions or weeds in the garden of devotional service, then he will not attain the auspicious results which are the real fruit such activity. A real Rupanuga has no fruitive ambition for such petty results.” (Anubhashya, 2.19.131)
When Mahaprabhu was giving Rupa the outline for his book on sacred rapture, he described the characteristics of the different mellows and showed him how to get a taste of the fathomless ocean of sacred rapture, he pointed out how difficult it was to attain devotional service to Krishna. The jiva or living entity is an atomic spark of conscious energy. There are countless jivas, who are divided into two categories--those which are mobile and those which are stationary. Those which have mobility are again divided into three: those which move on the land, in the air or in the water. Amongst those who live on the land, a small number are human beings, of which only a minority accept the Vedic principles. Outcastes such as Pulindas, Mlecchas, Shavaras and Buddhists are in the majority. Of those who accept the Vedas, some do so in name only and engage in sinful activity. Those who practice the Vedic principles are in the minority. Those who are engaged in religious practices toward some fruitive end form the majority in this group.
Amongst millions of such karma-nishöha followers of the Veda, one person may perhaps attain the level of spiritual knowledge; yet only one of many millions of such jnanis will be an actual liberated soul. And out of millions of liberated souls, it will still be difficult to find a devotee of Krishna. Devotion to Krishna which is thus so rare can take birth when a certain merit is attained through great good fortune.
The seed to the devotional creeper comes through the mercy of the Lord and his devotee. The creeper of spontaneous ecstatic devotion does not flower anywhere within this world, not even in Vaikuntha in the spiritual world, but only in Vrindavan at Krishna’s lotus feet. Krishna’s feet are like the wish-fulfilling tree around which the vine of devotion wraps itself and bears fruit. This is described in a most clear and wonderful manner by Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami in Chaitanya Charitamrita:
After wandering through this entire universe, birth after birth, some fortunate souls receive the seed of devotion (bhakti-lata-bija) by the mercy of Krishna and the guru. Upon receiving the seed of devotional service, one should take care of it by becoming a gardener and sowing it in his heart. If he waters the seed gradually by the process of shravana and kirtan [hearing and chanting], the seed will begin to sprout. As one waters the bhakti-lata-bija, the seed sprouts, and the creeper gradually increases to the point where it penetrates the walls of this universe and goes beyond the Viraja River between the spiritual world and the material world. It passes through the Brahma-loka, the Brahman effulgence until it finally reaches the spiritual sky and the spiritual planet Goloka Vrindavan where it takes shelter of the desire tree of the lotus feet of Krishna. There the creeper expands greatly and produces the fruit of love for Krishna, while the gardener continues to regularly sprinkle the creeper with the water of hearing and chanting here in the material world.
An offense to the Vaishnavas is like a mad elephant that uproots or breaks the creeper, causing its leaves to dry up. The gardener must therefore take care to protect the creeper by making a fence around it so that the elephant of offenses may not enter. Even so, unwanted creepers, such as the weeds of desire for material enjoyment or release from the world, may grow along with the creeper of devotional service. Such weeds are countless in their variety. Some examples are forbidden activity, faultfinding and duplicity, causing suffering to other creatures, seeking wealth, adulation or mundane importance. All these weeds grow alongside the main creeper as one waters it, causing its growth to be curtailed. As soon the devotee sees one of these weeds growing beside the original creeper, he must cut it down instantly. Then the real bhakti-lata can grow nicely all the way to Vrindavan where it will find shelter under the lotus feet of Krishna. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.19.151-61)
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur has commented on this passage in his Anubhashya: “Through the act of watering the creeper of devotional service by hearing and chanting, weeds may also grow which results in the growth of the bhakti-lata being stifled. If one does not avoid bad association, which is the only way to be free of offenses while hearing and chanting, then one becomes attached to sense gratification, the idea of liberation from material bondage, various mystic achievements, or the practice of deception. One may also become addicted to the illicit association of women or practice other false manifestations of devotion practiced by the prakrita-sahajiyas or a dweller of the five places given by Parikshit to Kali, namely wherever there is gambling, intoxication, prostitution, animal slaughter and the accumulation of gold. He starts to take the Vaishnavas to be members of a particular race or caste, he finds dishonest ways of collecting money, or makes a show of practicing spiritual life in seclusion while secretly harboring desires for fame and adulation. Or one’s desire for mundane reputation may result in his making compromises with nondevotees, compromising one's philosophy or spiritual life, or becoming a supporter of the hereditary caste system by professing discipleship to a so-called guru who opposes Vishnu and the Vaishnavas. The sum and substance of these aberrant paths is that one becomes intoxicated in the gratification of one’s own senses and, in order to attain these superficial and destructible ends, in short, anything besides pure devotion, one presents oneself as a great saintly person or as a religious person in order to accumulate followers. None of these things is useful in attaining pure devotional service to Krishna.
“If one uproots the various weeds as soon as one sees them beginning to sprout, then the creeper of devotional service will be able to grow as far as Goloka Vrindavan where it will give forth transcendental fruits. If not, one will end up being cut off from the devotional life and, remaining in the material world, whether in the higher or lower planets, will have to suffer its vagaries.” (Anubhashya, 2.19.160-1)
There are twelve devotional sentiments. The five primary sentiments are those of peacefulness, servitude, friendship, parenthood, and erotic love. The seven secondary sentiments are humor, astonishment, heroism, compassion, anger, disgust and fear.
The five primary sentiments remain permanently within the devotee’s heart, while the secondary sentiments are adventitious, appearing only when there is cause. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.19.188)
The secondary rasas act as supporting elements for the primary sentiments, coming and going when propitious circumstances arise. After serving their function, they again disappear, whereas the primary sentiments are permanently ensconced in the devotee’s heart. In his teachings to Rupa Goswami, Mahaprabhu established that of the five primary rasas, the divine sentiment of conjugal love is foremost. The characteristics of shanta-rasa abandonment of other desires and steady attachment to Krishna. Over and above these characteristics, the possessor of the serving mood has his service, the friend has an intimacy, while the parent has a sense of being the protector. The devotee in madhura-rasa has all these qualities with the addition of serving with her own body. Just as all the qualities of the other elements starting with the ether are added together to be united in earth, so are all the qualities of the other devotional moods united in the mood of erotic love. Since all the sentiments are present in madhura-rasa, it is the best.
Rupa starts writing his plays
After the Lord had instructed Rupa for ten days at Prayag, he prepared to leave for Benares. Rupa was eager to accompany him, but the Lord instructed him to go on to Vrindavan and that he could take the road through Bengal at some later date to see him in Puri. In keeping with the Lord’s order, Rupa Goswami continued on to Vrindavan and stayed there for one month. Then, he and Anupama set off in search of Sanatan, hoping to meet him somewhere along the Ganges. However, by the time they reached Prayag, Sanatan had already left for Mathura by the main highway, so their paths did not cross. When he arrived in Mathura, Sanatan was able to learn of Rupa’s adventures from Subuddhi Raya.
As the two brothers were travelling along the banks of the Ganges toward Bengal, Anupama departed for the eternal abode of Ramachandra. Because of Anupama’s death, Rupa Goswami was not able to join the other Bengali Vaishnavas in their annual pilgrimage to Puri, arriving there much later.
While in Vrindavan, Rupa had commenced writing a play on Krishna-lila, and had composed several verses of the introductory portion, known as the nandi. The nandi includes the obeisances, the blessing and the indication of the play’s subject matter. Travelling through Orissa on his way to Puri, he stopped overnight in a village named Satyabhamapura. There he had a dream in which Satyabhama appeared to him and told him to write a separate play in her honor.
The morning after, Rupa Goswami said to himself, “Satyabhama has ordered me to write a play for her. I had started to write a play which described events from both Vraja and Dvaraka, but now I shall do them separately. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.1.43-4)
Once in Puri, Rupa would not go into the Jagannath temple to take darshan of Lord Jagannath. This was because of his great humility. In fact, though there was no impediment to his going there, he would not even enter Kashi Mishra’s house to visit Mahaprabhu out of the same sense of being fallen. Though he had been born into a very respectable Brahmin family, he considered himself to be a mleccha due to his long association with the Muslim rulers of Bengal. Therefore, he preferred to stay with Hari Das Thakur at Siddha Bakula. Mahaprabhu himself respected Rupa’s decision and never told him to go to see Jagannath, for he wished to teach the world humility through Rupa Goswami’s example.
Through Hari Das Thakur, the Lord taught forbearance. Through Rupa and Sanatan, he taught humility. (Bhakti-ratnakara 1.631)
When Mahaprabhu suddenly came one day to visit Hari Das, he was attracted by Rupa’s humble, pure devotional attitude and embraced him. The Lord then sat down with him and asked him for the latest news about him and Sanatan and they talked about these and other things. On another day, Mahaprabhu came there with all of his entourage and Rupa paid obeisances to all of them. Mahaprabhu, out of affection for Rupa, had Advaita and Nityananda Prabhus give him their blessings. Every single day, Mahaprabhu had Govinda bring Rupa and Hari Das the remnants of his prasad.
One day, the Lord suddenly said to Rupa, “Never make Krishna leave Vraja. Krishna never abandons Vrindavan to go elsewhere.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.1.66) As a result of this hint from the Lord, Rupa understood that both Satyabhama and Mahaprabhu wanted two different dramas, so he composed Vidagdha-Madhava exclusively about Krishna’s pastimes in Vraja, and Lalita-Madhava about the Dvaraka-lila.
The Lord appreciates Rupa’s poetry
By Mahaprabhu’s mercy, Rupa Goswami was able to understand his inner emotional state. During the Rathayatra, the Lord stood before Jagannath’s chariot gazing upon the Lord in the mood of Radha, and began to recite a verse from the Kavya-prakasha. The verse, though seemingly having nothing to do with Krishna, put him in an ecstatic mood and he began to dance. Other than Shri Svarupa Damodar Goswami, no one was able to understand the meaning of the verse. Rupa Goswami, however, also had an insight into the Lord’s mood and he composed an original verse which expressed this sentiment. He wrote the verse down on a palm leaf and tucked it into the thatched roof of Hari Das’s cottage. Then he went to take his bath in the ocean.
In the meantime, Mahaprabhu came by and found the palm leaf and saw the verse written upon it. He was astonished to see that Rupa had had such a clear intuition into his innermost feelings.
priyah so’yam krishnah sahacari kurukshetra-militas
tathaham sa radha tad idam ubhayoh sangama-sukham |
mano me kalindi-pulina-vipinaya sprihayati ||
O companion! This is the same beloved Krishna
meeting me here in Kurukshetra;
and I am the same Radha,
and both of us are feeling the joy of union.
Even so, my mind wishes for the forest
by the banks of the Yamuna
where the fifth note of his flute
reverberated sweetly within my heart. (Padyavali, 383)
When Rupa returned from bathing, Mahaprabhu gave him an affectionate slap, saying, “How did you know what was in my mind?” Then he embraced him tightly.
The Lord took the verse and showed it to Svarupa Damodar, asking him to examine it for any possible faults. He asked him, “How was Rupa able to know my mind?” Svarupa answered, “I believe it must be the result of your special benediction.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.1.85-6)
One day, Rupa Goswami was busy writing Vidagdha Madhava. Mahaprabhu arrived unexpectedly and was impressed by his beautiful handwriting, comparing it to a string of pearls. He read the verse which Rupa had just finished composing, which was a glorification of the Holy Name:
tunde tandavini ratim vitanute tundavali-labdhaye
karna-kroda-kadambini ghaöayate karnarbudebhyah spriham |
cetah-prangana-sangini vijayate sarvendriyanam kritim
no jane janito kiyadbhir amritaih krshneti varna-dvayi ||
I do not know out of how much nectar
the two syllables of Krishna’s name have been fabricated:
dancing madly on my tongue,
they awaken in me the desire to possess many mouths;
as they sprout in my ears, they give me the hope
that I may one day have millions of ears;
and as they enter into the garden of my heart
they overcome the activities of every one of my senses,
leaving me inert! (Vidagdha Madhava 1.15)
Hari Das Thakur, the acharya of the Holy Name, was amazed to hear such an extraordinary glorification of Krishna’s name and he started to dance. He said, “I have heard the glories of the Holy Name from many scriptures, but never a description like this of the sweetness of the Name!” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.1.101)
On another day, after visiting Jagannath, Mahaprabhu came to Siddha Bakula with his entire entourage, including Shri Svarupa Damodar Goswami, Ramananda Raya and Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya. Svarupa Damodar read the priyah so’yam verse quoted above to all the devotees and explained to everyone how as a result of Mahaprabhu’s special mercy Rupa had been able to understand something that even Brahma and the demigods were unable to comprehend. Then the Lord asked Rupa to read the tunde tandavini verse glorifying the Holy Name. All the devotees were were delighted and said, “How often we have heard about the greatness of the Holy Name. But no one has ever written such a description of its sweetness!” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.1.122)
Then Ramananda Raya began discussing the subject matter of Rupa’s plays with him. He asked to hear the verse glorifying the object of his devotion which would appear at the beginning of the play. At first, Rupa was reluctant to recite his composition in front of the Lord, as it was indeed he who was the object of the mangala verse. However, when the Lord insisted that he recite, Rupa read his verse aloud. Mahaprabhu externally expressed displeasure, saying, “Your praises are overdone. It is an exaggeration,” but the rest of the devotees were overcome with ecstatic love. The verse is the second of the first act of Vidagdha-Madhava:
anarpita-carim cirat karunayavatirnah kalau
samarpayitum unnatojjvala-rasam sva-bhakti-shriyam |
sada hridaya-kandare sphuratu vah shacinandanah ||
The elevated, effulgent taste of sacred rapture
is the wealth of devotional love;
the Lord never gives it at any time;
yet, out of his mercy in this age of quarrel,
to distribute this treasure to the world,
he has become incarnate in his golden form.
The son of Sachi is like a lion;
may he dwell in the cave of your heart forever.
When Ramananda Raya heard this extraordinary verse, drenched in love for the Lord, he began to praise Rupa Goswami with what seemed like a thousand tongues. He said that Rupa could only have written such an accurate portrayal of such difficult concepts as a result of the Lord’s mercy.
Having heard the verse, Ramananda said to the Lord, “I wish I had a thousand tongues to glorify Rupa’s poetic ability. This is not poetry, it is a fountain of ambrosia. He has exactly followed the classical tradition in composing his play. His description of Radha and Krishna’s love affairs is truly wonderful. My ears and mind are spinning with delight upon hearing them. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.1.192-4)
Kali Das was considered the greatest Sanskrit poet until Rupa Goswami began to write his transcendental poetry, drenched with the divine sentiments.
Rupa in Vrindavan
From Puri, Rupa returned to Gaudadesha to make arrangements for the equitable distribution of his accumulated wealth amongst his family, Brahmins and temples, and stayed there for nearly a year before going to Vrindavan for good. In the meantime, Sanatan Goswami came to Puri via the Jharikhanda path and then returned by the same route to Vraja. When the two brothers met again, it had been more than a year since they had seen each other.
Rupa and Sanatan set an unequalled standard of discipline and exemplary method of worship:
These brothers have no fixed residence. They spend each night beneath a different tree in the forest, one night under one tree and the next under another. Sometimes, they beg dry food from a Brahmin’s house and sometimes cooked food like dry bread and fried chick-peas. This is how they have given up all kinds of material enjoyments. They wrap themselves in a quilt and wear nothing but a piece of torn cloth, claiming only a waterpot for a possession. They engage almost twenty-four hours daily in rendering service to the Lord by chanting the holy names of Krishna and discussing his pastimes or dancing in great jubilation. They spend only an hour and a half in sleep, and some days, when overcome by the love of chanting the Lord's holy name, they do not sleep at all. Sometimes they write transcendental works about divine aesthetics, and sometimes they listen to talks about Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu or spend their time thinking about the Lord. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.19.127-31)
Rupa Goswami is credited with the authorship of 16 books: (1) Hamsaduta, (2) Uddhava-sandesha, (3) Krishna-janma-tithi-vidhi, (4) Laghu Radha-krishna-ganoddesha-dipika, (5) Brihat Radha-krishna- ganoddesha-dipika, (6) Stavamala, (7) Vidagdha Madhava, (8) Lalita Madhava, (9) Dana-keli-kaumudi, (10) Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu (11) Ujjvala-nilamani, (12) Prayuktakhyata-candrika, (13) Mathura-mahima, (14) Padyavali, (15) Naöaka-candrika and (16) Laghu- bhagavatamrita. Other than these sixteen titles, Upadeshamrita, Namashöaka, Siddhanta-ratna and Kavya-kaustubha, etc., are attributed to Rupa Goswami.
Raghunath Das Goswami stayed in Mahaprabhu’s association in Puri for sixteen years under the tutelage of Svarupa Damodar Goswami. When the Lord and Svarupa Damodar both ended their pastimes within this world, Raghunath became so saddened by their departure that he decided to come to Vrindavan to commit suicide by jumping off Govardhana after seeing Rupa and Sanatan one last time. The two brothers were very affectionate to Raghunath, however, and would not allow him to kill himself. Rather, they adopted him as a third brother and kept him constantly by their side.
Another of the Six Goswamis was Raghunath Bhaöö.a Goswami, whose father was Tapana Mishra. When Mahaprabhu was in Benares, he stayed and ate at the home of Tapana Mishra, giving the young Raghunath the opportunity to render him service by cleaning his remnants and massaging his feet, etc. When he grew older, he went to see the Lord in Puri and stayed there for eight months. During this time he served Mahaprabhu by cooking various vegetable preparations which gave the Lord great satisfaction. After this, the Lord ordered him to return to Benares to serve his aging parents, which Raghunath did for four years. When his parents died, Raghunath returned to Puri where the Lord told him to follow in Rupa’s footsteps and to go to Vrindavan. Raghunath followed the Lord’s directions and came to Vraja where by Rupa’s mercy he became infused with love for Krishna. He would recite Shrimad Bhagavatam for Rupa’s pleasure.
Rupa Goswami and Govindaji
In Vrindavan, Rupa Goswami established a temple for Govindaji, and Sanatan one for Madanamohana. Narahari describes the way that Govindaji appeared to Rupa in his Bhakti-ratnakara: Mahaprabhu had given four instructions to Rupa Goswami--he was to find the lost holy places in the dham, establish the service of a deity, to publish scriptures on pure devotional service, and to preach the love of the holy name. Rupa Goswami carried out every one of these desires of the Lord to perfection. Rupa was worried about how he could establish deity worship, and started wandering through the villages and forests in the Vraja area in search of Govindaji, but without success.
After the failure of these efforts, he was sitting one day by the banks of the Yamuna, upset and burning up with intense feelings of separation from Krishna. Just then, a divine personality taking the form of a handsome Vrajavasi came up to him and asked him in a sweet voice what was the cause of his distress. Rupa Goswami was attracted by the charming voice and appearance of the Vrajavasi and told him everything that had been troubling him. The man consoled Rupa, saying, “There is no cause for worry. You will find Govinda on the hill named Goma Tila, which is the Yoga Pith here in Vrindavan. Every morning a cow goes there and joyfully gives him milk.” Having told him this, the Vrajavasi disappeared.
Rupa Goswami thought, “Krishna came here and spoke to me and I did not know who he was”, and he fainted. Somehow or another, he was able to overcome his feelings of loss at having been unable to recognize Krishna and he went to the place that the Vrajavasi had indicated. Other residents of the village helped him dig at Goma Tila until they found the deity of Govindaji, more beautiful than a million Cupids. It is said that this Govinda deity had originally been worshiped by Krishna’s own grandson, Vajranabha.
After revealing his presence on Goma Tila, Govindaji was first served in a simple thatched hut, but later, a disciple of Raghunath Bhatta built a beautiful temple and jaga-mohana, etc., to house the Lord. (Bhakti-ratnakara 2.404-37). In 1590, the king of Amber, Raja Manasimha, repaired the existing structure and built additions to it, with the result that there stood an exquisite sandstone temple. In his Mathura Memoir, Growse has described this temple in the following words: “The temple of Gobinda Dev is not only the finest of this particular series, but is the most impressive religious edifice that Hindu art has ever produced, at least in upper India.”
It is said that the seven-story building was so high that the emperor Aurangzeb could see its pinnacle from his palace in Agra. Out of envy, he destroyed the upper portion of the building. At around this time, Govindaji was moved first to Bharatpur and then later to Jaipur out of fear of Muslim iconoclasm, where he remains to this day.
Shri Rupa Manjari Pada
Narottama Das Thakur has written has described Rupa Manjari or Rupa Goswami as his all-in-all in the following song from Prarthana:
shri rupa manjari pada sei mora sampada
sei mora bhajana-pujana
sei mora prana-dhana sei more abharana
sei mora jivanera jivana
sei mora rasa-nidhi sei mora vancha-siddhi
sei mora vedera dharama
sei vrata, sei tapa sei mora mantra japa
sei mora dharama karama
anukula habe vidhi se pade hanbe siddhi
nirakhibo ei dui nayane
se rupa madhuri rashi prana kuvalaya-shashi
praphullita habe nishi-dine
tuwa adarshana ahi garale jarala dehi
ciradina tapita jivana
ha ha prabhu koro daya deha more pada chaya
narottama lanla sharana
Shri Rupa Manjari’s feet are my only possession. They are my religious practice, my worship. They are my wealth, they are my ornament, the life of my life.
They are my treasurehouse of sacred rapture, they are the fulfilment of my deepest wishes, they are my prescribed duty. They are my religious vow; they are my austerities, my meditation and my mantra. They are my religious obligation.
One day, fate will smile upon me and I will be perfected in a position of service to her. I will see that form which is an ocean of sweetness, which will cause the moon lotus of my heart to bloom night and day.
The snake of separation from you spits a venom which burns my body. I have long suffered in this life. O my lord! Please be merciful and give me the shade of your lotus feet. Narottama has taken shelter of you.
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur also considered the dust from Rupa Goswami’s feet to be the most important thing in his life. He often said that he desired nothing other than this.
adadanas trinam dantair idam yace punah punah |
shrimad-rupa-padambhoja-dhulih syam janma-janmani ||
With bunches of straw between my teeth,
I pray repeatedly that I may take birth again and again
as a particle of dust at the lotus feet
of Shrila Rupa Goswami.(Raghunath Das, Mukta-caritra)
Rupa Goswami’s samadhi temple can be found in the courtyard of the Radha Damodar temple in Vrindavan. This is also where he performed his bhajana at the end of his life. Other places consecrated to Rupa’s memory in the Vraja area include his place of worship near Nandagrama, called Terikadamba. In this place, Radha came in disguise to give Rupa milk, rice and sugar so that he could cook a sweet-rice preparation for Sanatan Goswami. When Sanatan tasted the sweet rice, he felt divine ecstasies invade his body. Upon learning how he had received the ingredients, however, Sanatan forbad Rupa to ever cook sweet rice again, so that Radharani would not have to go to any trouble on his behalf.
Rupa Goswami’s pastimes in this world came to an end in the month of Bhadra, on the twelfth day of the waxing moon, the day after Jhulana Ekadashi.
Shrila Sanatan Goswami
ya rupa-manjari-preshöha purasiad rati-manjari |
socyate nama-bhedena lavanga-manjari budhaih ||
sadya gaurabhinna-tanuh sarvaradhyah sanatanah |
tam eva pravishat karyan muni-ratnah sanatanah ||
Rati Manjari, who was previously very dear to Rupa Manjari and was also known by some wise persons as Lavanga Manjari, has become the worshipable Sanatan, who is non-different from Gaura himself. The jewel amongst sages, Sanatan Kumara, has also entered into him to fulfill a certain mission. (Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 181)
Sanatan’s life before meeting Mahaprabhu
According to the Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana, Sanatan was born in around 1410 of the Shaka era (1488 AD). Narahari Chakravarti Thakur has described his ancestors in Bhakti-ratnakara (1.541ff) and Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur has given a summary of this information in his Anubhashya to Chaitanya Charitamrita (1.10.84), which we have quoted in this book on page 12 in our discussion of the life of Rupa Goswami. Other than this, no reliable information about their antecedents has been found. Perhaps researchers in Indian history will be able to shed more light on this.
According to the Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana, the following brief account is given of how Sanatan’s grandfather came to be engaged in the Muslim Shah’s service: “During the reign of Barbak Shah (1460-1470 AD), Sanatan’s grandfather Mukunda entered the court at the capital city of Gauda. Barbak Shah engaged many Abyssinian slaves and eunuchs in both his court and harem; they were known as habshi [which is now the common Bengali word for any black African]. After the death of Barbak Shah, his son Yusuf became king, and he was followed by his son Fateh Shah. During the reign of Fateh Shah, the Abyssinians led a coup in which Fateh Shah himself was assassinated. They ruled for five or six years. Hussein Shah was the wazir or prime minister of the last of the Abyssinian rulers and he later became himself ruler of Bengal. Mukunda left this world during the rule of Fateh Shah and Mukunda was engaged in his place. Sanatan managed to survive the Abyssinian period and during Hussein Shah’s reign managed to take a higher position on the strength of his personal talents, eventually becoming prime minister. Rupa Goswami held another ministerial post, possibly as finance minister.” Sanatan’s title was Sakara Mallik and Rupa’s was Dabir Khas.
While Shri Sanatan Goswami was still young, he studied under the country’s leading scholar named Vidyavacaspati, learning many scriptures from him. He was especially attached to the study of the Shrimad Bhagavatam. Although he had taken birth in a high class Brahmin family, because he had worked for the Muslim government, he considered himself to be fallen and always behaved in a most humble manner, as is appropriate for a Vaishnava.
Sanatan’s teacher was Vidyavacaspati who would come to stay in Ramakeli from time to time. Sanatan studied all the scriptures from him. No one can achieve the depth of devotion that he had for his guru. (Bhakti-ratnakara 1.598-9)
Sanatan’s father would perform atonement rituals after even seeing a Muslim, yet Sanatan himself would associate constantly with Muslims. Being dependent on them for his livelihood, he would even go into their homes. For this reason, he considered himself to be on the same level as the Muslims and behaved very humbly. Sometimes, when he had fallen into the ocean of humility, he would think of himself as even lower than a mleccha. Because he had associated with Muslims and behaved in a lowly manner like them, he would speak of himself in that way. Though born in the highest class family of Brahmins, he never thought of himself as a Brahmin. (Bhakti-ratnakara 1.609-14)
Through Ramananda [the Lord] destroyed Cupid’s pride; through Svarupa Damodar he demonstrated detachment. Through Hari Das Thakur, he demonstrated forbearance and through Rupa and Sanatan Goswami, he taught humility. (Bhakti-ratnakara 1.630-1)
All the participants in Krishna’s lila also made their appearance in Gaura’s incarnation in order to enrich his pastimes. Through them, the Lord gives various teachings to the people of this world.
Through Hari Das, he revealed the glories of the Holy Name; through Sanatan, the articles of faith in devotional service. Through Rupa he taught Radha and Krishna’s pastimes of love. Who can understand the mysterious workings of the Lord? (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.5.86-7)
Through Sanatan’s mercy, I learned the points of devotional doctrine, while through Rupa’s mercy, I learned about the divine devotional sentiments. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.5.203)
Thus Sanatan has been called the bhakti-siddhantacarya, or the teacher of devotional doctrine, by which is meant the teacher of sambandha-jnana, or of the basic relations between God, man and the world. The founder of the Chaitanya Math, Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur, whose various branches have spread throughout the world, mercifully gave his disciples a poem entitled “Who is a Vaishnava?” The nectarean instructions which are found in this poem mention the teachings of Mahaprabhu to Sanatan Goswami from the Chaitanya Charitamrita.
tai dushöa mana nirjana bhajana
pracaricha chale kuyogi-vaibhava
prabhu sanatane parama yatane
shiksha dila yaha, cinta sei saba
So, wicked mind, you have deceptively been preaching nirjana-bhajana, the practice of the eremetic life, which is nothing more than a display, like that of a misleading yoga practitioner interested in the mystic powers. Study the teachings of the Lord to Sanatan very carefully and meditate upon them.
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur thus instructs us all to give great attention to the Lord’s teachings to Sanatan, or those teachings which he gave to the world through Sanatan Goswami.
First meeting in Ramakeli
After Mahaprabhu took sannyas, he first went to Shantipur and then on to Puri and then on pilgrimage to South India. After completing his pilgrimage and returning to Puri, Mahaprabhu decided to go to Vrindavan via the route which follows the Ganges through Bengal. Great crowds of people accompanied him and he eventually decided to turn back from Kanair Natshala. He met Rupa and Sanatan for the first time while passing through the village of Ramakeli on this voyage.
Ramakeli is in the district of Maldah in West Bengal, about eight miles south of English Bazar, which was the district headquarters, and about five or six miles from the Maldah train station. It is also known as Gupta (“hidden”) Vrindavan. There are a number of sites which are worth seeing as reminders of Rupa and Sanatan: (1) A tamala and a kadamba tree under which Mahaprabhu is said to have been sitting when he met Rupa and Sanatan; a shrine containing the footprints of the Lord has been constructed there as a memorial of that meeting. The Lord distributed love of Krishna to all the devotees in this location. (2) The temple of Madana-mohana. This Madana-mohana deity was personally worshiped by Sanatan Goswami. There are also deities of Nitai-Gauranga and Advaita Prabhus. (3) There are several tanks, which are named Radha Kund, Shyama Kund, Surabhi Kund, Lalita Kund and Vishakha Kund. (4) A large man-made lake named Rupa Sagara, which is said to have been excavated by Rupa Goswami, and (5) another named Sanatan Sagara. Rupa and Sanatan had large mansions built both in Ramakeli and Fateyabad.
At first, when the Muslim king heard that such great crowds of Hindus had assembled in the nearby village, he was worried. One of the Hindu members of the Shah’s court was Keshava Khattri, who explained to him that there was no reason to fear Mahaprabhu. Rupa Goswami (Dabir Khas) also glorified Mahaprabhu to the king, telling him of his fortune in having the Lord bless the country by his presence. Keshava Kshatriya, meanwhile, sent a secret message to the Lord telling him to go elsewhere because the King could not be trusted.
The King said, “Listen, I am also beginning to think that this person must be God himself. There is no doubt about it.” After having this conversation, the king entered his private quarters and Dabir Khas also returned to his residence. After returning to there, however, he and his brother decided after much consideration to go incognito to see the Lord. Thus, in the dead of night the two brothers, Dabir Khas and Sakara Mallik, went to see Mahaprabhu. First they met Nityananda Prabhu and Hari Das Thakur. Nityananda Prabhu and Hari Das then went and told the Lord that Rupa and Sakara Mallik had come to see him. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.1.180-4)
When Rupa and Sanatan met the Lord, they spoke to him with extreme humility:
“We two are millions of times more degraded, fallen and sinful than Jagai and Madhai. We are of wicked birth because we are the servants of Muslims and our activities are exactly like those of the Muslims. We constantly associate with people who are inimical toward the cows and Brahmins. Due to our abominable activities we are now bound by the neck and hands and have been thrown into the ditch filled with the excrement of evil sense enjoyment.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.1.196-199)
It is very distressful to us that we are so unworthy, yet when we see your merciful qualities, we become desirous of attaining your blessings. This powerful desire rises up in us as that of a dwarf who wants to touch the moon. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.1.204-5)
When the Lord heard the extreme humility of the two brothers, he became compassionate and said to them, “You are my eternal servants. From now on you shall be known as Rupa and Sanatan. I came to Bengal just so that I could meet you here in Ramakeli village. Krishna will deliver you from your entanglements very shortly.”
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur has written the following comment in his Anubhashya (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.1.208): “Mahaprabhu showed his mercy to Dabir Khas and Sakar Mallik by giving them the spiritual names of Rupa and Sanatan, respectively. Nama-karana is a type of samskara on the lowest level of qualification. However, those who ignore the mercy that is manifest in the spiritual name have no chance of attaining devotion to Krishna, but remain intoxicated with material prestige. The prakrita-sahajiyas pay no heed to the injunctions of the scripture which state that the minimum characteristics of a Vaishnava are that he wears the symbols of the discus and conchshell and urdhva-pundra (tilaka) and takes one of the names of Krishna. As such, they cannot be qualified as Gaudiya Vaishnavas. Non-Vaishnavas have not been given a name by the Vaishnava guru and so they continue in the bodily conception of life without any awareness of their relationship with the Lord. They continue to identify themselves with their previous caste according to the name which ties them to their body.”
Amongst the Lord’s companions present on this occasion were Nityananda Prabhu, Hari Das Thakur, Shrivasa Pandit, Shrila Gadadhara Pandit Goswami, Mukunda Datta, Jagadananda Pandit, Murari Gupta, Vakresvara Pandit and many others. The Lord had them all give their blessings to Rupa and Sanatan. As the Lord was departing, the worldly-wise Sanatan said to him,
You should leave this place, Lord. You have no business here. Even though the Shah has faith in you, he is a Muslim and cannot be trusted. To go on pilgrimage with such a large company of devotees is not recommended. You are going to Vrindavan with an entourage of hundreds and thousands of people, and this is not a fitting way to go on a pilgrimage.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.1.222-4)
Mahaprabhu continued on as far as Kanair Naöashala, but as he considered the wisdom of Sanatan’s advice, he decided to turn back, first going to Shantipur and then to Puri.
After he and his entourage had given their mercy to Rupa and Sanatan, they left Ramakeli village. (Bhakti-ratnakara 1.635)
Sanatan escapes from prison
Rupa and Sanatan are the eternal associates of Krishna in Vrindavan. They appeared in this world in order to enrich Lord Gauranga’s lila by playing the role of aspirants for spiritual perfection (sadhakas). After meeting Mahaprabhu, they began to feel very impatient to change their lifestyle. They became very renounced and austere. In order to quickly be united with Mahaprabhu, they engaged two Brahmins in the performance of a purashcarana.11
Shrila Rupa Goswami finally resigned from his government service and he deposited 10,000 coins on behalf of his older brother with a grocer in the capital Gauda. Then he took the rest of their accumulated wealth with him to Bakla Candradvipa where he divided it up amongst the Vaishnavas, Brahmins and his family, while keeping a quarter of it with a trustworthy Brahmin against future necessity. He then sent two people to Puri to find out when Mahaprabhu intended to travel to Vrindavan.
Hussein Shah used to treat Sanatan Goswami as his younger brother and had great affection for him. Sanatan thought that the affection of the king, or indeed of any materialistic person, was a source of material bondage. If the king became angry with him, it would make it easier for him to break away from his entanglements. For this reason, he stopped performing his duties in the Shah’s court, pretending to be ill. Though he claimed to be seriously ill, he was in fact engaged in an intense study of the Bhagavat with a group of Sanskrit scholars.
The Shah was disquieted by Sanatan’s illness and he sent a doctor to examine him. The doctor came back and reported to the king that Sanatan was in good health and that he was studying the Bhagavat with a group of panditas. When he heard this, the Shah went to Sanatan himself and spoke to him very affectionately, trying to convince him to come back to work. Sanatan refused, however, to return to his ministerial duties and furthermore refused to accompany the Shah in the war he was preparing with Orissa. The Shah became suspicious of Sanatan and had him put in prison.
In the meantime, Rupa had received the news that Mahaprabhu had taken the jungle route through Jharikhanda for Vrindavan. He himself immediately departed for Vraja with his younger brother Anupama Mallik. He sent Sanatan a letter telling him know of his intentions, telling him to take any necessary action to free himself and then to come and join them. The letter consisted of the following Sanskrit verse:
yadupateh kva gata mathura Puri
raghupateh kva gatottara-koshala |
iti vicintya kurushva manah sthiram
na sad idam jagad ity avadharaya ||
Where has the Mathura of the Lord of the Yadus gone?
And where is the kingdom of Koshala
of the Lord of the Raghus?
Contemplate this and make your mind steady:
beware, this world will not last forever.
Sanatan was able to understand the secret meaning of the verse, which indicated that the Lord had gone to Mathura, and was overjoyed. He began to consider how he could escape from prison.
Sanatan knew the Muslim jailkeeper, for he was the one who had hired him. He began trying to persuade him to let him go, saying that the Almighty would surely bless and give him salvation for setting free someone who had been unjustly imprisoned. The jailor remained unconvinced, so Sanatan tried to win him over by reminding him that he owed him a favor for having given him the job.
When the jail keeper still refused to let him go, Sanatan offered him a bribe of 5,000 rupees. At this, the jailkeeper’s resolve began to waver, but he was still afraid of being caught by the Badshah. Sanatan told him, “The Shah has gone to war. When he comes back, just tell him that I went to the toilet. Then when I went to the Ganges to wash myself, I jumped into the water and disappeared. Say that you looked everywhere but couldn’t find me.”
Sanatan further assured him that he would not remain in the area, as it was his intention to become a Sufi and go on the Haj to Mecca. Therefore, he need not worry on that account. The jailor remained reticent, however, and finally Sanatan had the grocer bring 7,000 rupees of the money which Rupa had left in his safekeeping and placed it directly in front of him. When he saw the money before him, the jailor became greedy and capitulated. He cut Sanatan’s chains and helped him to cross the Ganges.
In general, we consider flattery, asking return for a favor, putting temptation before someone, telling someone to lie, and bribery all to be unethical acts. Sanatan, however, used all the means at his disposal to escape bondage so that he could join the Lord and engage in his service. To achieve an auspicious end, any means may be permissible. The purity or impurity of a particular means depends on the purity or impurity of the objectives to be achieved. In order to serve his master Rama, the Supreme Brahman, Hanuman burned down Lanka, killing many living beings. Because he was acting for the pleasure of the all-auspicious Supreme Lord, however, everyone was ultimately benefited by his action, and Hanuman is still considered worshipable to this very day. On the other hand, one could bathe in a holy river three times a day and worship the deity of the Lord, and be completely in the mode of ignorance if his objective is to do harm to other beings.
Even from the worldly point of view we see that one who commits murder is considered a criminal and is punished by the death penalty, but if one fights on the battlefield to save the nation and kills many members of an enemy army, he is not punished but rather decorated with medals. This is because he is not acting for personal ends, but for those of the collectivity. This is easy to understand, but when one acts, not for the limited purposes of serving the country, or even the entire world, but for the supremely auspicious owner of unlimited millions of universes, then that is the most justifiable of purposes and the highest benefits are attained by everyone through such actions. In the Padma-purana, it is written:
man-nimittam kritam papam api dharmaya kalpate |
mam anadritya dharmo ‘pi papam syan mat-prabhavatah ||
Even sinful activities done for my sake are to be considered religious acts. On the other hand, pious activities done while disdaining me are considered to be sin. This is the extent of my power.
Those who chant the Holy Names or make a show of devotion, but in fact are seeking to achieve mundane, egoistic goals, are factually engaged in sin and are destined for a hellish fate. Krishna also states in the Bhagavad-gita,
yasya nahamkrito bhava buddhir yasya na lipyate |
hatvapi sa imal lokan na hanti na nibadhyate ||
He who is free from egotism (arising from aversion to the Absolute), and whose intelligence is not implicated (in worldly activities)--even if he kills every living being in the whole world--does not kill at all, nor does he suffer a murderer’s consequences. (Bhagavad-gita 18.17)
When causeless devotion is manifest in the soul and one’s heart has an honest eagerness to find service to the Lord, then one gives up all consideration for happiness in this world, for renunciation is a side effect of unmotivated devotion.
Ishana nearly gets Sanatan killed
Sanatan had been prime minister, yet he escaped from jail with practically not a penny to his name. He did not take the main highway, but travelled as quickly as possible through fields and villages until he reached Pataria Mountain, which is part of the Raj Mahal Hills in the Choöa Nagpur area in the state of Bihar. He did not know how to get across this mountain, and so requested the aid of a landowner who was also a robber chieftain. Accompanying Sanatan was a longtime personal servant named Ishana. Through the help of a palmist, the landowner was able to know that Ishana had eight gold coins in his possession, so he welcomed Sanatan into his home and treated him with great hospitality.
Sanatan was sufficiently experienced from his years in politics to become suspicious of the warm treatment he was getting from his host, and so he asked Ishana whether he was carrying anything of value. Ishana answered that he had seven gold coins, keeping his other coin a secret from him. Sanatan said, “Why have you brought this ruination upon us?” After gently chastising his servant in this way, he took the coins from him and gave them to his host, asking him to help him get across the mountain.
The landowner then revealed to Sanatan that he had known all along about the eight gold coins and that it had been his intention to murder them both that night somewhere on the mountain in order to take the money. He was very pleased that Sanatan had given him the gold and was even ready to return it to him, but Sanatan refused. He was intelligent enough to understand the adage: avyvasthita-cittasya prasado’pi bhayankarah, “even the kindness of an undependable person is dangerous.”
dhurtasya vacane kvastha kvacit satyam kvacin mrisha |
kvacid raudram kvacid vrishöih shravanasya ghano yatha ||
How can one have faith in the words of a rascal? He sometimes tells the truth and sometimes falsehoods. Just as with the clouds of Shravan--sometimes there is sunshine and sometimes rain.
After they had crossed the mountain, Sanatan told Ishana to take the remaining gold coin and return home. Ishana had shown by his attachment to this gold coin that he was not yet ready to accept a life of renunciation, that he was too dependent on material conditions. When unqualified people take the renounced orders, then these orders themselves become contaminated. This is the lesson that Sanatan gave through his servant Ishana.
Sanatan meets the Lord in Benares
After bidding good bye to Ishana, Sanatan continued on his way until he arrived at Hajipur on the northern bank of the Ganges near Patna. Sanatan’s brother-in-law, Shrikanta, made his home there. Though Shrikanta invited him to stay there for a few days to recuperate from the voyage, Sanatan declined his invitation because of his desire to see the Lord. Shrikanta gave him a valuable blanket of Bhutanese wool.
Sanatan then continued on to Benares where he was overjoyed to learn that Mahaprabhu was staying at the house of the physician, Chandrasekhara. Sanatan did not go straight into Chandrasekhara’s house but waited on his front porch. The Lord, the indweller of all souls, knew of his devotee’s arrival and sent Chandrasekhara to the door to invite him in. As soon as Sanatan entered, Mahaprabhu immediately rushed to embrace him. The meeting of the Lord with his devotee affected them both so intensely that they were overcome by the transformations of ecstatic love. In his affection for Sanatan, the Lord started to brush off the dust accumulated on his body from his travels, but this caused Sanatan to feel uncomfortable. He told the Lord not to touch him, but the Lord answered,
“I touch you in order to purify myself. Your devotional force is so great that you can purify the entire universe. I look at you, I touch you and I sing your glories. By so doing, all my senses attain their most perfect use.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.20.56,60)
The Lord repeated again and again that he was touching Sanatan for his own purification and for the purification of the entire universe. Then he immediately added, “Listen Sanatan. Krishna is the ocean of mercy, he saves the most fallen. He has delivered you from the hell known as Raurava.” Sanatan is, of course, an eternal associate, so there is no question of his being truly fallen, but Mahaprabhu wished to make a point for the benefit of the people of the world. He wanted to teach that worldly honor measured in terms of one’s fortune and accumulation of sense objects is in truth misfortune, since the accumulation of material possessions for the sake of gross or subtle sense gratification ultimately leads to a hellish existence. Conditioned souls who are bewildered by the illusory energy are constantly busy working hard in order to accumulate wealth, position and influence, whether by fair means or foul. Seldom does one come across an exemplary householder who knows that Krishna is the only true enjoyer and engages all his worldly possessions in the Lord’s service rather than considering them to be the objects of his own enjoyment.
While Mahaprabhu was in Benares, he stayed with Chandrasekhara and took his meals at the house of Tapana Mishra. Mahaprabhu introduced Sanatan to these two devotees, and Tapana Mishra invited Sanatan to come to his house and take Mahaprabhu’s prasad remnants. After many days in prison and travelling, Sanatan’s hair and beard had grown long. The Lord told him to get shaved, so that he would look “respectable”. Vaishnavas in general are clean shaven, growing neither beard nor moustache. With the exception of the caturmasya period when one does not shave nor cut the fingernails, this is the accepted practice for Vaishnava men. Vaishnava sannyasis, however, usually shave only once a month on the full moon day, as for them to shave daily would be considered unnecessary preoccupation with the body.
After being shaved, Sanatan took his bath in the Ganges. When he came back to the house, Chandrasekhara wanted to give him a new cloth, but Sanatan refused it, taking back his old one. Though he had been rich enough to give clothes to thousands of mendicants, on this day he was reluctant to accept a new cloth for himself. When one’s desire to worship the Lord is real, one becomes indifferent to nice clothes or good food. Accepting gifts from Vaishnavas or taking their remnants is an exception to this rule, however, as these do not have the poisonous character that other sense objects have. Every single one of Sanatan’s actions contains a lesson for the conscientious sadhaka.
Mahaprabhu was extremely pleased to see Sanatan’s renunciation. Thus it is said,
mahaprabhura bhakta jata vairagya pradhana |
yaha dekhi’ tushöa han gaura bhagavan ||
Renunciation is the predominating characteristic of every one of Mahaprabhu’s devotees. When Lord Gauranga sees their renunciation, he is very pleased. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.6.220)
When one is intoxicated by material sensuality and enjoyments and engaged in competition to attain them, one is destined for a falldown from any spiritual attainment.
There was a Maharashtrian Brahmin who invited Sanatan to come daily to his house to eat for as long as he stayed in Benares. Sanatan refused, however, saying that he prefered to keep body and soul together by eating only madhukari, that is to say, by begging a handful of food from several houses each day. A pure devotee has no desire for bodily comfort.
Sanatan Goswami had torn his old cloth into two to make a loincloth (bahirvasa) and a shawl (uttariya), but even so, he continued to wrap himself in the Bhutanese wool blanket. Mahaprabhu looked repeatedly at this blanket, and Sanatan realized that Mahaprabhu did not approve of it. That day, when he went to the Ganges ghaö, he saw a Bengali mendicant washing a quilt in the river. He offered him his expensive blanket in exchange for the quilt. When Sanatan came back wearing the threadbare quilt, the Lord was pleased.
The Lord said, “I had been thinking about this. It seems that since Lord Krishna is very merciful, he has cured you of your disease of attachment to sense enjoyment. Why then would he allow you to hold fast to a last bit of material attachment? After restoring someone to health, a good physician does not allow any trace of the disease to remain. It is contradictory to practice madhukari while wearing a blanket worth three gold coins. By so doing, you would have lost your spiritual strength and become a laughing stock.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.20.90-2)
Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is the Supreme Personality of Godhead himself. Even so, he played the role of the supreme teacher. He insisted that his personal associates maintain the standards of behavior that he set and himself followed.
I shall accept the role of a devotee and shall teach devotional service by practicing it myself. It is explained in the Bhagavat and the Bhagavad-gita that if one does not oneself practice a religious principle, it cannot be taught. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.3.20-1)
yad yad acarati shreshöhas tat tad evetaro janah |
sa yat pramanam kurute lokas tad anuvartate ||
The general masses imitate the ways of great men. They follow whatever the great personality accepts as the right conclusion. (Bhagavad-gita 3.21)
The Lord’s teachings to Sanatan
Being pleased with Sanatan, Mahaprabhu infused him with spiritual power, giving him the capacity to ask appropriate questions about the practice of true spiritual life. Without the mercy of the Supreme Lord, genuine, honest questions on such matters cannot arise in someone’s mind. Most people ask questions thinking that they already know the right answer, simply as a sort of debating technique. No spiritual benefit arises from such types of questions. Honest questions meant to find out doctrinal truths leading to surrender are called pariprashna (“relevant inquiry”) in the Bhagavad-gita:
Tad viddhi pranipatena pariprashnena sevaya |
upadekshyanti te jnanam jnaninas tattva-darshinah ||
You will be able to attain all this knowledge by satisfying the enlightened spiritual master with prostrate obeisances, relevant inquiry, and sincere service. Great souls who are most expert in scriptural knowledge and endowed with direct realization of the Supreme Absolute Truth will teach you that divine knowledge. (Bhagavad-gita 4.34)
On the day a person undertakes his journey on the road to liberation, when his material entanglement is about to start the process of termination, he meets a spiritual master. Sanatan Goswami was himself an ever-liberated soul and a permanent companion of the Lord, but he showed what questions the aspiring practitioner of devotional service should ask his spiritual master on that day. He said to the Lord:
“I was born in a low family and have always associated with low-class men. I am fallen and the lowest of men. Indeed, I have fallen into the well of sinful materialism and passed my whole life there. I have no idea of what is beneficial for me and what is not. In ordinary dealings, people consider me wise, and I have also come to think of myself as such. You have mercifully delivered me from the materialistic path. Now, by the same causeless mercy, please explain to me my duty. I don’t know who I am or why the threefold miseries constantly wear me down, so how can I attain the highest good? Actually, I do not even know how to inquire about the goal of life and the process for obtaining it. Please be merciful upon me and explain all these things to me.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.20.99-103)
Sanatan’s first question was ami ke? “Who am I?” This is the first question which arises in the heart of a person seeking the highest good. If one makes a mistake in assessing his true identity, then he will make errors when it comes to determining the ultimate goal of life. If one makes an error in determining the ultimate goal of life, then everything he does, every effort he makes, will be wasted. All of one’s duties, religious observations and self-interest rest upon the proper knowledge of oneself. If one takes the body to be the self, then he considers the maintenance of the body itself to be the goal of life or prayojana-tattva, and one’s self-interest will be the fulfilment of goals related to the body; duties will also be considered in terms of these ends, and morality, or the determination of good and bad, will all be determined on the basis of what is good or bad for the body. On the other hand, if someone takes the subtle body to be the self, then one will consider his personal interests in terms of its development and he will consider his religious duty to help others to develop in this way. Those who consider the self to be a soul which exists beyond the gross and subtle bodies will consider its development to be their self-interest and will consider it their religious duty to help other people to develop spiritually. Those whose vision is sufficiently clear to recognize their identity as spirit soul, but find themselves in the undesirable situation of bondage to the gross and subtle material bodies, still make favorable use of these coverings in an understanding of their true self-interest, which is that of the soul. They avoid the unfavorable use of the gross and subtle bodies.
In his teachings to Sanatan Goswami, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu taught that the living being’s true identity is to be Krishna’s eternal servant. The jiva is the Lord’s taöastha-shakti, or marginal energy, his separated expansion, who is simultaneously one and different from him. The Lord taught him the sadhya and the sadhana, the goal of the seeker, and the methods by which the seeker achieves his goal. Mahaprabhu summarized the three elements of his teaching as the sambandha, saying that it was Krishna, the abhidheya, the practice which leads to perfection or devotion to Krishna, and the prayojana, the supreme goal of spiritual life or love for Krishna or prema.
The sum total of the Vedic literatures explains three things: sambandha, abhidheya and prayojana. The living entity’s eternal relationship with Krishna is called sambandha. Devotional service is the process by which one attains the supreme objective, Krishna. Devotional service, or sense activity for the satisfaction of the Lord, is called abhidheya because it can develop one's original love of Godhead, which is the goal of life, the prayojana. This goal is the living entity's topmost interest and greatest treasure. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.20.124-5)
All these matters have been explained at great length, with copious quotations from scripture, by Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami in his Chaitanya Charitamrita, from the 20th to the 23rd chapters of the Madhya-lila. Rather than repeat these teachings in detail here, which would lead to this account of Sanatan Goswami’s life becoming over long, we will limit ourselves to a brief summary.
Mahaprabhu told Sanatan that the various scriptures, in particular, the Shruti, contain statements which indicate that the living being is both one with and different from the Supreme Lord. Different acharyas have put forth a variety of doctrines explaining the relation between this oneness and distinction, named advaita-vada, dvaita-vada, vishishöadvaita-vada, shuddhadvaita-vada, dvaitadvaita-vada, etc.. If one accepts the scripture, one must accept it in its entirety, including both types of affirmation, and try to find a way to harmonize the apparent contradictions. Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s solution to the problem was to establish the doctrine named acintya-bhedabheda, “inconceivable oneness and difference”. This doctrine has been looked upon favorably around the world and created a revolution in thinking.
Mahaprabhu concluded his teachings with a discourse on the atmarama verse:
atmaramash ca munayo
nirgrantha apy urukrame |
kurvanty ahaitukim bhaktim
ittham-bhuta-guno harih ||
Self-satisfied sages who are freed from any bondage also engage in the unmotivated service of Shri Krishna, whose activities are all wonderful. Such are the transcendentally attractive features of Hari!
Mahaprabhu gave eighteen different explanations of this verse from the Shrimad Bhagavat to Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya. When Sanatan asked the Lord to allow him to hear them, Mahaprabhu treated him to 61 different interpretations.
Sanatan goes to Vraja
After this, Mahaprabhu converted Prakashananda Saraswati and the other sannyasis of Benares to Vaishnavism. When he had completed instructing Sanatan in a most thorough fashion, he sent him to Vrindavan while he himself took the less frequented road to Puri. Sanatan took the main highway to Vrindavan where he met Subuddhi Raya who was following Mahaprabhu’s instructions to atone for his past sins by chanting Hare Krishna. Though he was barely able to make a living selling dry wood, Subuddhi would provide for the Vaishnavas who came to Vraja from Bengal.
Sanatan took the pilgrimage circuit through the twelve forests of Vraja in the company of Subuddhi and the Sanoriya Brahmin. From them he learned that Rupa and Anupama had also completed the circuit not long before and had then taken the road along the banks of the Ganges to return to Bengal.
When Mahaprabhu himself did the Vraja parikrama, he discovered Radha Kund and Syama Kund near Ariö village. Then he went to see the deity of Harideva at Govardhana after which he desired to see Giridhari Gopal. The Gopal deity of Madhavendra Puri had his temple on top of the hill. Mahaprabhu had vowed not to walk on Govardhana, but nevertheless wished to take darshan of Gopal. While he was wondering how to solve this problem, there was a panic in the area that the Muslims were planning to destroy images throughout Vraja and so Gopal’s pujaris took him out of his temple and hid him in the village of Gaöholi. Mahaprabhu then could go there and take his darshan. From time to time, Gopal would perform this pastime of being moved to Gaöholi in this way. Sanatan also had the good fortune to be able to visit Gopal while he was there.
Sanatan visits the Lord in Puri
It took Rupa Goswami longer to get to Bengal than he had expected and so he was unable to join the other devotees on their annual trip to Puri to see the Lord. He therefore arrived some time after the main group and went to stay with Hari Das Thakur. When Mahaprabhu met Rupa, he inquired after Sanatan and heard from him that the brothers had taken different roads and thus missed each other.
After touring Vrindavan, Sanatan Goswami took the Jharikhanda route to Puri. As a result of drinking bad water in the jungle, Sanatan came down with scabies. He became depressed as a result of the running sores on his body and in his despondency began to plan a suicide, thinking that due to his low birth and his now disgusting physical condition, he would not only be unable to go near the temple and see Jagannath, but would also be deprived of Mahaprabhu’s darshan. He would not even be able to stay close enough to the temple to see it, and if Lord Jagannath’s servants should accidentally touch him, he would commit a great offense. All in all, he thought it would be better to throw himself under the wheels of Jagannath’s chariot and be crushed to death while watching Mahaprabhu dance.
When he finally arrived in Puri, he went directly to see Hari Das Thakur and paid his respectful obeisances to him and Hari Das affectionately embraced him. Sanatan then began to stay with him. Thus when Mahaprabhu came to see Hari Das, as he was wont to do, Sanatan had the opportunity to see him. The Lord was so overcome by divine love when he saw Sanatan that he approached with the intention of embracing him. Sanatan retreated, however, thinking himself too impure to be touched by the Lord. Nevertheless, Mahaprabhu would not let him escape and took him in his arms by force, holding him tightly enough that the fluid oozing from Sanatan’s sores was smeared on his body, the sight of which broke Sanatan’s heart. Mahaprabhu then gave Sanatan the news of Rupa’s visit and Anupama’s devotion to Rama and his departure for Rama’s eternal abode.
On another day, the all-knowing Mahaprabhu came to Siddha Bakula where Hari Das and Sanatan stayed and suddenly confronted Sanatan with his intention to commit suicide during the Rathayatra festival. He said,
“My dear Sanatan, if I could attain Krishna by committing suicide, then I would give up millions of bodies without a moment's hesitation. But I cannot attain Krishna simply by giving up the body, but only through bhajana. There is no means other than devotional service by which to attain him.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.4.55-6)
In this way, Mahaprabhu taught the world through Sanatan that suicide is an act of the mode of ignorance which cannot be used to attain Krishna. It is only through the cultivation of pure devotion in practice that one can attain the Supreme Lord. The best forms of bhajana, or worship, are known as the nine kinds of devotional service, or nava-vidha bhakti. The best of these is the congregational chanting of the Holy Names of Krishna, Harinama-sankirtana. Finally, Mahaprabhu revealed how dear Sanatan was to him when he said,
“You have already surrendered yourself to me, so your body is now my personal property. Why do you want to destroy another’s property? Are you unable to distinguish right from wrong? Your body is an important instrument of mine through which I shall accomplish many things.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.4.76-8)
During the Caturmasya period, many Bengali and Orissan devotees would come to Puri to be with the Lord, and that year they also met Sanatan. Sanatan was struck with wonder by the Lord’s dancing before Jagannath’s chariot. When the Bengali Vaishnavas returned to their homes after the four month period, Sanatan remained in Puri.
During the hot season, in the month of Jyestha, the Lord stayed with Gadadhara Pandit at Yameshvara Toöa. One day, he called Sanatan to come and see him at noontime. Rather than taking the main road leading from the Simha Dvara to the seashore, Sanatan took another path which led across the hot sands of the beach. Though Sanatan had no consciousness of the burning heat of the sand, his feet were covered in blisters when he arrived.
The Lord asked Sanatan why he had not taken the path which led from the Simha Dvara. Sanatan replied,
“I have no right to pass by the Simha-dvara, for the servants of Jagannath are always coming and going there. Since they are always using that road, I would not be able to pass without touching them. If that should happen, I would be ruined.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.4.126-7)
Mahaprabhu was very pleased by Sanatan’s respect for Jagannath’s pujaris and by his humility. He answered him as follows:
“My dear Sanatan, you can save the entire universe and even the demigods and great saints are purified by touching you. Nevertheless, it is the characteristic of a devotee to observe Vaishnava etiquette. Maintenance of Vaishnava etiquette is the ornament of a devotee. One who transgresses these rules of behavior becomes a laughing stock and is lost both in this world and the next. By observing the etiquette, you have brought me great satisfaction. Who else but you will set this standard?” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.4.126-7)
Mahaprabhu embraced Sanatan again and again, and once again, the oozing fluids from Sanatan’s blisters were smeared all over the Lord’s body.
Finally, Sanatan became so troubled by the situation that he went to discuss the matter with Jagadananda Pandit, asking him for advice on how to free himself from the offenses that he was unwillingly committing. Jagadananda suggested that Sanatan leave Puri and return to Vrindavan.
The next time that Mahaprabhu came to Siddha Bakula and embraced him, Sanatan blurted out his distress, saying that he should never have come to Puri as his coming had only resulted in his committing countless offenses. The contaminating impurities from his scabies daily touched the Lord’s body, plunging him deeper and deeper into misery. He begged Mahaprabhu for permission to leave for Vrindavan, letting him know that it was Jagadananda who had thus advised him.
When Mahaprabhu heard this, he became angry and said,
“Jagadananda is just a newcomer, a boy. Yet, he has become so proud that he thinks he can give even you advice. You are his guru in every respect, both in material and spiritual terms and yet he gives you advice? Doesn’t he know his own worth? You are my teacher; you are an authority. And yet, like an impudent child, he is giving instructions even to someone as qualified as you.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.4.158-60)
When Sanatan heard Mahaprabhu criticize Jagadananda in this way, he took it as another sign of the Pandit’s great fortune on the one hand and his own misfortune on the other.
“You accept Jagadananda into your inner circle while venerating me. It is as though you were giving him ambrosia to drink and me the bitter juice of neem and tobacco leaves.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.4.163)
Even after hearing these words, Mahaprabhu continued to take Jagadananda’s actions as a sign of impudence. Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur has written in this connection, “Everyone has a certain status. If someone thinks that he is more important than he really is, he transgresses the lines of etiquette which are prescribed by seniority, etc., and gives advice to someone to whom he should rather offer respect. Mahaprabhu did not encourage such transgressions, but rather sought to discourage a younger devotee like Jagadananda from behaving in this way.”
The Lord further prohibited anyone from looking upon Sanatan’s body as material.
“You take your body to be disgusting, whereas I think that your body is like nectar. Your body is transcendental, never material, but you conceive of it in material terms.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.4.172-3)
When Hari Das Thakur objected that the Lord was exaggerating out of his own mercy, the Lord laughed and explained to him and Sanatan as follows:
“My dear Hari Das and Sanatan, I think of you as my adopted children and of myself as your maintainer. The maintainer never takes seriously any faults of the maintained. I never think of myself as deserving of respect, but because of affection I always consider you to be like my little boys. Even when a child passes stool and urine that touch her body, a mother never hates the child. On the contrary, she takes much pleasure in cleansing him and takes his filth to be like sandalwood pulp. Similarly, I felt no disgust at being touched by the fluids oozing from Sanatan’s itches.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.4.184-7)
Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu went on to say,
“The body of a devotee is never material. It is considered to be transcendental, full of spiritual bliss. At the time of initiation, when a devotee fully surrenders unto the service of the Lord, Krishna accepts him to be as good as himself. When the devotee's body is thus transformed into ecstatic spiritual existence, he is able to render service to the lotus feet of the Lord... Krishna produced scabies on Sanatan’s body and sent him here to test me. Had I refused to embrace him out of disgust, I would certainly have committed an offense to Krishna himself. This is the body of an associate of Krishna. It has no foul odor coming from it. On the first day that I embraced him, I smelled the aroma of catuhsama [a mixture of sandalwood pulp, camphor, aguru and musk].” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.4.191-7)
This time, when the Lord embraced Sanatan, the foul itches which covered his body immediately disappeared and his skin took on an effulgent golden glow.
Jagadananda and Sanatan in Vraja
Sanatan stayed a full year in Puri, after which Mahaprabhu told him to return to Vrindavan. He bid the Lord goodbye after the Dolayatra and took the jungle path to Vrindavan. Rupa Goswami joined him there not long afterward. When Raghunath Bhatta Goswami came to Vrindavan on Mahaprabhu’s order, he stayed with Rupa and Sanatan and daily recited the Bhagavat for them in a sweet voice.
Some time later, Jagadananda Pandit took permission from Mahaprabhu to come to Vrindavan. When he came there, he met Sanatan who was overjoyed to see him. The two of them went together on a tour of the twelve forests of Vraja. Sanatan encouraged Jagadananda to stay with him in Gokula where he was settled at that time. Even though they dwelt together, they ate separately. Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakur writes in his Amrita-pravaha-bhashya, “Sanatan had become habituated to the madhukari system and lived on a few pieces of bread each day. Jagadananda, however, could not live without eating rice, and so he went every day to a nearby temple to cook. In those days, even in the temples of Vraja, rice and dahl were not regularly offered to the deities.”
One day, Jagadananda invited Sanatan to eat with him. Sanatan desired to show the world the extent of Jagadananda’s devotion to Mahaprabhu. So when he came to eat Jagadananda’s offering, he wore around his head a saffron cloth which had been given to him by a certain Mukunda Saraswati. When Jagadananda learned that the cloth was not a gift from Mahaprabhu, he was so angry with Sanatan that he took the pot in which the rice had been cooking and threatened to hit him with it. He said,
“You are Mahaprabhu’s most important associate. No one is dearer to him than you. How could anyone tolerate you wearing another sannyasi’s cloth around your head?” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.13.56-7)
Sanatan answered by praising Jagadananda’s exclusive dedication to Gauranga Mahaprabhu:
“Well said! It is clear, Pandit Mahashaya, that you are unequalled in your love for the Lord. Only from you could I have learned this lesson, for you alone have such solid faith in the Lord.. My purpose in binding the cloth around my head has been realized, for as soon as you saw it, I was able to witness the manifestations of your love for the Lord. A Vaishnava should not wear a red-colored cloth. I will give it to someone else, for I have no further need for it.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.13.56-61)
Jagadananda stayed in Vraja for two months, after which he was no longer able to tolerate being separated from Mahaprabhu. He took leave of Sanatan and headed in the direction of Jagannath Puri. As they bid each other goodbye, as gifts for Mahaprabhu, Sanatan gave him sand from the place where Krishna held the rasa dance, a stone from Govardhana, a garland of gunja berries and some dried ripe pilu fruits. Jagadananda gave all these gifts to Mahaprabhu upon his arrival in Puri; he and his devotees especially enjoyed the pilu fruits.
Sanatan’s service to the Lord
Mahaprabhu gave Sanatan four responsibilities: (1) to preach pure devotional service by establishing the doctrines of pure devotion; (2) to discover and make known the various places where Krishna had his pastimes; (3) to establish the service of the deity of Krishna in Vrindavan; and (4), to establish proper Vaishnava behavior through compiling a Vaishnava rule book or smriti, and in this way make the foundations of a Vaishnava society.
“O Sanatan, you should broadcast the revealed scriptures on devotional service and excavate the lost places of pilgrimage in the district of Mathura. Establish the deity service of Lord Krishna in Vrindavan. You should also compile a scripture containing the rules of devotional practice and preach these practices.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.23.97-8)
In following the instructions to broadcast the revealed scriptures on pure devotional service and to establish the foundations of proper Vaishnava practice and etiquette, Sanatan wrote four books, all of which are considered to be jewels by the devotees. He wrote (1) a commentary on the Haribhakti-vilasa known as Digdarshani, (2) a commentary on the tenth canto of the Shrimad Bhagavatam known as the Brihad-Vaishnava-Toshani, (3) Lila-stava or Dashama-carita, and (4) Brihad-Bhagavatamrita, to which he added a commentary. Mahaprabhu himself gave directions to Sanatan about the contents of the Hari-bhakti-vilasa, which is the smriti scripture, or rule book for the external practices to be followed by the devotees.
Sanatan spent a great deal of time searching out the various holy spots in the land of Vraja. He also established the service of the Madana Mohana deity. Shrila Sanatan Goswami founded a maöh in Vrindavan at the place known as Dvadashaditya Tila. He first had a temple built there for Radha-Madana Mohana. It is said that a rich officer in the Sultan’s army named Krishna Das Kapura built the temple and a kitchen and financed an opulent standard of worship for the deity. He later became Sanatan Goswami’s disciple.
When Sanatan Goswami was staying in Gokula Mahavana, he saw Madana Gopal playing with a group of cowherd boys at Ramanareti. Narahari Chakravarti has given a beautiful description of this vision in his Bhakti-ratnakara:
O Shrinivas, just look at this place. Sanatan Goswami used to live here. All the fortunate residents of Mahavana would be revitalized by seeing him. He joyfully lived in Mahavana looking upon his Madana Gopal deity. Madana Gopal enjoyed playing on the sandy beaches which line the Yamuna, known as Ramana Reti. One day he came to that divine riverbank with the children of Mahavana, himself taking the form of a cowherd boy. Sanatan watched him as he played various childhood games with the other children and thought, “This is no ordinary child.” When the children had finished playing and were leaving, Sanatan followed them. The child entered into the temple and when Sanatan followed him inside, he saw no one but the deity of Madana Mohana. He paid his obeisances to the deity and then returned to his own dwelling without saying anything to anyone. So this is how Madana Mohan showed himself to be under the control of Sanatan’s love. Sanatan’s wondrous character has thus filled the three worlds. (Bhakti-ratnakara 5.177-186)
Sanatan’s glorious pastimes in Vraja
Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami has described in his Chaitanya Charitamrita how Rupa and Sanatan Goswami worshiped Krishna in the land of Vraja:
These brothers have no fixed residence. They spend each night beneath a different tree in the forest, one night under one tree and the next under another. Sometimes, they begged dry food from a Brahmin’s house and sometimes cooked food like dry bread and fried chick-peas. This is how they have given up all kinds of material enjoyments. They wrap themselves in a quilt and wear noting but a piece of torn cloth, claiming nothing but a waterpot as a possession. They engage almost twenty-four hours daily in rendering service to the Lord by chanting the holy names of Krishna and discussing his pastimes or dancing in great jubilation. They spend only an hour and a half in sleep, and some days, when overcome by the love of chanting the Lord's holy name, they do not sleep at all. Sometimes they write transcendental works about divine aesthetics, and sometimes they listen to talks about Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu or spend their time thinking about the Lord. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.19.127-31)
While staying at Cakratirtha near Govardhana, Sanatan would regularly circumambulate the mountain. As he grew older, he became too weak to walk these 14 miles on a daily basis without becoming excessively fatigued. One day, Gopinath himself came in the form of a cowherd boy to fan him when he became too tired from walking. After refreshing Sanatan in this way, the boy climbed onto the hill and brought down a stone marked with Krishna’s footprint. He gave the stone to Sanatan and said, “You have grown old. There is no need for you to trouble yourself to this extent any longer. I am giving you this stone from Govardhana. If you circumambulate this stone, you can consider yourself to have circumambulated Govardhana itself.” Then he disappeared. No longer able to see the charming form of the cowherd boy, Sanatan was overwhelmed with pain and began to cry. This story has also been told in the Bhakti-ratnakara (5.728-741).
Cakratirtha is on the northern shore of Manasi Ganga. There is a temple dedicated to Cakreshvara Shiva, or as he is popularly known, Cakleshvara Mahadeva. Sanatan’s bhajana-kuöira was under a neem tree which stood in front of this temple. Just north of this place is a temple which houses Gaura-Nityananda. Sanatan Prabhu’s Govardhana-shila is currently kept in the Radha-Damodar temple at Radha Kund.
There are more stories about the glories of Cakratirtha. When Sanatan first came to this place, there were so many mosquitos that he was unable to concentrate while meditating on the Holy Name or writing transcendental literature, so much so that he decided to move. That night, Cakreshvara appeared to Sanatan in a dream and told him not to worry about the problem. He would be able to engage in his worship without disturbance. From that night on, there were no more mosquitos at Cakratirtha.
Shrila Sanatan Goswami also spent some time living in a cottage on the banks of Pavana Sarovara near Nandagrama. Here also he was granted a vision of Krishna as a cowherd boy, who gave him milk and told him to build a hut and engage in his worship there. One day, Rupa invited Sanatan to come and eat with him. For this occasion, he wished to prepare sweet rice, but he did not have the necessary ingredients. Shrimati Radharani took the form of a young cowherd girl and came to Rupa with milk, sugar, rice and ghee, in short, giving him everything he needed to make the preparation for Sanatan’s pleasure. Rupa Goswami cooked the sweet rice and after offering it to the deity, gave the prasad to Sanatan. Sanatan found that after relishing the delicious sweet rice, he was overcome by uncontrollable waves of ecstasy. Suspecting that something unusual had taken place, he asked Rupa where the ingredients had come from. When Rupa told him about the little cowherd girl, Sanatan immediately realized that it had been Radha. Because Radha was their goddess and they were her servants, the proper relation of served and servant had been reversed. He therefore strictly forbad Rupa from accepting such gifts in the future.(Bhakti-ratnakara 5.1311-30)
Another legend told about Sanatan is the following. Once there was a very poor devotee of Shiva, whose name, according to the Bhaktamala and Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana, was Shri Jivana Chakravarti. Originally from the village of Manakara in Burdwan district in Bengal, he had spent many years worshiping Shiva in Benares, praying to him for wealth. Finally, one night Shiva appeared to him in a dream and told him to go to Sanatan in Vrindavan, for he was in possession of a great wealth which he would share with him.
The poor Brahmin immediately set off for Vrindavan where he found Sanatan deep in meditation. However, when he saw the Goswami, thin and dressed in a dirty loincloth, he began to doubt that he could give him the desired riches. Even so, he told Sanatan about the dream. Sanatan heard the Brahmin and came back to external consciousness. He answered saying that he lived by begging a few crumbs from a number of different houses, how could he possibly give him the riches he desired?
The poor Brahmin was disappointed and turned away, thinking that perhaps the message Shiva had given him in the dream had just been an illusion. Meanwhile, Sanatan pondered why Shiva had sent the Brahmin to him. As he ruminated, he remembered a philosopher’s stone that was lying in a pile of rubbish and had long since been covered in dust. As soon as he remembered the existence of this valuable jewel, he sent someone to fetch the Brahmin and told him to take the jewel from the rubbish heap. When the Brahmin saw the touchstone, he was overjoyed and thought, now there will be no one as rich as I in the entire world! After walking some distance away, however, he began to wonder why Sanatan had completely forgotten about such a valuable possession. Indeed, if he cared so little for the philosopher’s stone, he must have something even more valuable. Perhaps he had been cheated! He wanted to know what riches Sanatan possessed that he cared so little for the touchstone.
The Brahmin quickly ran back to Sanatan and expressed his doubts, asking him if he had anything more valuable in his possession. Then Sanatan told him that there was no greater wealth than love for Krishna and that material goods were insignificant and simply a cause of greater distress. The Brahmin then bowed his head and prayed to Sanatan to please give him the wealth which made him consider even a touchstone insignificant. Sanatan was moved by his prayer and mercifully bestowed upon him the riches of Krishna-prema.
Sanatan Goswami’s samadhi tomb is found next to the old Radha-Madana Mohana temple in Vrindavan. He left this world on the full moon day of Asharh in the Shaka year 1480 (1558 AD).
Shri Raghunath Bhatta Goswami
raghunathakhyako bhaööah pura ya raga-manjari |
krita-shri-radhika-kunda-kuöira-vasatih sa tu ||
In Krishna-lila, Raghunath Bhatta, who made his home in a cottage by Radha Kund, was Raga Manjari. (Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 185)
Serving the Lord in Benares
In around 1503 AD, Raghunath Bhattacharya appeared as the son of Tapana Mishra, a dear devotee of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who hailed from the village of Ramapura on the banks of the Padma River in East Bengal. Mahaprabhu first met Tapana Mishra when he went to East Bengal during his career as a teacher of Sanskrit. Tapana Mishra had studied many scriptures but was still bewildered about the purpose of life and what to do to attain it. He had a dream in which he was instructed by a Brahmin to go to Nimai Pandit who would clarify these matters for him. When Tapana Mishra when to the Lord and told him of his dream, Nimai answered that Harinama-sankirtana was both the purpose of life and the means for attaining it. Tapana Mishra expressed his desire to come and live in Nabadwip near the Lord, but Mahaprabhu told him to go to Benares instead, assuring him that he would see him there one day. Thus, several years later, when passing through Benares on his way back from Vrindavan, Mahaprabhu stayed at Chandrasekhara Vaidya’s house and took his meals with Tapana Mishra.
The Lord had three devotees in Benares. One was Chandrasekhara Vaidya, another Tapana Mishra. The third was Tapana Mishra’s son Raghunath Bhattacharya. The Lord met with them when he stopped in Kashi after visiting Vrindavan. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.11.152-3)
Shri Raghunath Bhatta Goswami lived at home for about 28 years. During the two months that the Lord spent in Benares, Raghunath had many opportunities to personally serve him and to receive his mercy.
Mahaprabhu stayed in the house of Chandrasekhara for two months’ time, daily taking his meals at Tapana Mishra’s residence. Raghunath was just a boy at the time, but he served the Lord by cleaning his place after he ate and by massaging his feet. When he grew up, he went to Puri to see the Lord. He stayed there for eight months, occasionally cooking for the Lord. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.11.154-6)
Raghunath comes to Puri
Out of eagerness to see the Lord, Raghunath Bhatta hurried to Puri after visiting Bengal. He was accompanied by a servant who carried his baggage for him. While travelling, he met a certain Rama Das Vishvasa, a Rama devotee initiated in the Ramanandi disciplic succession and very learned in Sanskrit poetics and other scriptures. He was a well-to-do member of the kayastha caste who had an important position in the government treasury as he was trusted by the Shah. Rama Das was travelling to Puri as he wanted to renounce his material entanglements and visit Jagannath Deva. He was constantly chanting the Rama mantra. Knowing Raghunath to be a Brahmin, he took many pains to render service to him, sometimes massaging his feet, sometimes carrying his baggage on his head. Raghunath was somewhat embarrassed that such a rich and important man should be rendering him such menial service, but Rama Das tried to allay his doubts by saying, “I am a lowly shudra and you are a Brahmin. It is my duty to serve you. I feel the greatest joy in having this opportunity to serve you.”
When Raghunath arrived in Puri, he prostrated himself on the ground before the feet of the Lord. The Lord recognized Raghunath and with great emotion lifted him up and embraced him. He inquired after Tapana Mishra and Chandrasekhara Vaidya, then sent him to see Jagannath, telling him to come and eat with him afterward. Mahaprabhu had Govinda make housing arrangements for Raghunath and introduced him to Svarupa Damodar and his other associates.
During the eight months that Shri Raghunath Bhatta Goswami remained in Nilachala, he sometimes had the chance to invite Mahaprabhu for meals. He would take the opportunity to cook delicious vegetable platters for the Lord’s pleasure. He was an expert cook and the Lord was especially satisfied by the devotional mood in which he prepared these meals. Raghunath was then fortunate enough to be able to take the Lord’s remnants. Rama Das Vishvasa also came to meet Mahaprabhu during this time, but the Lord could see through him. He saw that Rama Das harbored desires for liberation and that he was proud of his learning, and so he did not show him as much mercy as he did to Raghunath.
After Raghunath had been in Puri for eight months, the Lord told him to go back to Kashi to serve his Vaishnava parents, who were now aged and infirm. He also told him not to get married. The Lord then made him a gift of his own neckbeads, which he placed around Raghunath’s neck, telling him to come to Puri again.
Raghunath goes to Vrindavan
Raghunath took care of his parents for the remainder of their lives, which was another four years. During this time, he also studied the Bhagavat from a Vaishnava. When his parents died, he returned to Puri and stayed with Mahaprabhu. After staying with the Lord for eight months, Mahaprabhu told him to go to Vrindavan and to stay with Rupa and Sanatan. He told him to continue studying and giving discourses on the Bhagavat as well as to chant the Holy Names. The Lord then gave him a ten-foot long tulasi garland which had been worn by Lord Jagannath as well as some pan which had none of the intoxicating spices in it. Raghunath was intoxicated with love upon receiving all these kindnesses from the Lord.
Raghunath had a beautiful singing voice. When he recited the Bhagavat, he would read the same verse aloud over and over again, chanting it in different tunes. As soon as they heard it, the devotees were attracted.
“Study Shrimad Bhagavatam and chant the names of Krishna continuously. The Supreme Lord Krishna will very soon bestow his mercy upon you.” After saying this, the Lord embraced Raghunath who was enlivened with ecstatic love for Krishna by his mercy. At a feast, the Lord had been given some unspiced betel and a ten-foot garland of tulasi leaves long which had been worn by Lord Jagannath. He gave the garland and betel to Raghunath Bhatta, who accepted them as his worshipable deity, taking care to preserve them. Then Raghunath took the Lord’s permission and departed for Vrindavan.
When he arrived there, he put himself under the care of Rupa and Sanatan Goswamis. Whenever he recited the Bhagavat before Rupa and Sanatan, Raghunath Bhatta would be overwhelmed with ecstatic love for Krishna. By Mahaprabhu’s mercy, he experienced the symptoms of ecstatic love--tears, trembling, and faltering of the voice. His eyes filled with tears, his throat became choked, and thus he would have to stop his recital. His voice was as sweet as a cuckoo's, and he would recite each verse of the Bhagavat in three or four tunes. Whenever he recited or heard about Krishna’s beauty and sweetness, he would be overwhelmed with ecstatic love and become oblivious to the world around him.
Raghunath Bhatta surrendered himself to Govinda’s lotus feet and those lotus feet were the only thing which gave his life meaning. In time, Raghunath Bhatta ordered his disciples to construct a temple for Govinda. He himself made various ornaments for the deity, including a flute and dolphin-shaped earrings.
Raghunath Bhatta would never speak or listen to gossip. He would simply discuss Krishna and worship the Lord day and night. He would not listen to criticism of a Vaishnava’s misbehavior. He knew only that everyone was engaged in Krishna's service. When Raghunath Bhatta Goswami was absorbed in remembrance of Lord Krishna, he would take the prasadi tulasi garland and the neckbeads given to him by the Lord, wearing them aroudn his neck. Thus I have described the power of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s mercy, by which Raghunath Bhatta Goswami experienced unlimited ecstatic love for Krishna. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.13.121-135)
The following description is also given of Shri Raghunath Bhatta Goswami is given in the Bhakti-ratnakara:
“As I look upon the samadhi tomb of Raghunath Bhatta, my heart breaks and my eyes are awash with tears. But who is not overjoyed as soon as he hears Raghunath Bhatta Goswami’s glories? He was such an expert teacher of all the scriptures that even Brihaspati would joyfully cheer upon hearing Raghunath’s explanations of Vaishnava doctrine. There is nothing to which his discourses on the Bhagavat can be compared. Even Vyasa himself wishes to sit and listen to him speak, knowing that this will bring him happiness. Even the gods were astonished when they observed his devotional practices.” When the devotees heard Shrinivas Acharya glorify Shri Raghunath Bhatta Goswami in this way, they fell to the ground and offered their respects. Then they continued on to the Govindaji temple.
Shri Raghunath Bhatta Goswami disappeared in about 1579 or 1580 AD.
Shrila Gopal Bhatta Goswami
ananga-manjari yasit sadya gopala-bhaööakah |
bhaööa-gosvaminam kecit ahuh shri-guna-manjari ||
She who was formerly Ananga Manjari has appeared to enrich Mahaprabhu’s pastimes as Shrila Gopal Bhatta Goswami. Some say that Gopal Bhatta is actually Guna Manjari. (Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 184)
Shrila Gopal Bhatta Goswami appeared in 1500 AD (though, according to some authorities, he was born in 1503) as the son of Venkaöa Bhatta in the town of Shrirangam in South India. Their residence was in a village not far from Shrirangam called Belagundi.
According to Narahari in the Bhakti-ratnakara, Shrila Gopal Bhatta Goswami was given a vision in a dream by Mahaprabhu in which he was fortunate enough to witness all the Lord’s Nabadwip pastimes. An eternal associate of Krishna, he appeared in a faraway place in order to participate in Lord Gauranga’s pastimes. Even so, he was able to know long before he even saw him that the Lord had appeared and taken sannyas. Gopal Bhatta did not particularly like the Lord’s appearance as a sannyasi. He was distressed and crying alone when the Lord appeared to him and gave him the dream vision of his Nabadwip lila. In this vision, the Lord was overwhelmed by ecstatic love, embraced him and drenched him in his tears.
Having said this to Gopal, the Lord embraced him and drenched him in his tears. He then told him to keep all these experiences secret, and Gopal felt great joy in his mind. (Bhakti-ratnakara 1.123-4)
The Lord’s teachings to Gopal’s father
In 1510, Mahaprabhu made his auspicious appearance in the pilgrimage city of Shrirangam. He was invited by Venkaöa Bhatta to spend the four months of the Caturmasya in his house. Knowing him to be a strict Vaishnava, Mahaprabhu accepted his invitation. In fact, the Lord’s pastime of coming to Shrirangam and staying at Venkaöa Bhatta’s home was to give his mercy to Gopal Bhatta and his family, for the Lord knew that Gopal, his eternal companion, had appeared there.
At this time, Gopal Bhatta was still a young boy. He was fortunate enough to be able to serve the Lord by massaging his feet. Even though he was satisfied with Venkaöa Bhatta and his family’s service, the Lord observed that Venkaöa had an element of pride in his object of worship. He believed that his worshipable deity, Lakshmi-Narayan, was the supreme worshipable object, that Narayan was the source of all other incarnations, including Krishna, Rama and Nrisingha. His reasoning was that Narayan is never born, he is aja, while Krishna and Rama take birth in the world. He thus thought, “Mahaprabhu worships Krishna, the incarnation of Narayan, while we worship Narayan, the source of all incarnations.”
Madhusudana is the destroyer of false pride, and Mahaprabhu finally decided one day that he would do the same for Venkaöa. He asked him in a bantering tone, “Venkaöa, I hear that no one is equal in opulence to your Lord Narayan; the same is true for your worshipable goddess Lakmsi Devi. On the other hand, the object of my worship, Krishna, has no opulences of any kind. He wears garlands of wild forest flowers and uses peacock feathers for decoration. He is the son of Nanda Gopa, and spends his day grazing the cows with the other cowherd boys. My worshipable goddesses, the gopis, are also nothing but poor cowherd girls. I wonder, therefore, why your worshipable Lakshmi Devi came to Vrindavan to perform austerities in the hope of gaining Krishna’s company in the rasa dance.”
Venkaöa immediately answered, “What’s wrong with that? Radha’s beloved Krishna is not different from Lakshmi Devi’s husband Narayan.
siddhantatas tv abhede ‘pi shrisha-krishna-Svarupayoh |
rasenotkrishyate krishnah krishna-rupam esha rasa-sthitih ||
“Though according to theological doctrine, Krishna and the husband of Lakshmi are identical in essence, the form of Krishna is superior when analyzed from the point of view of divine sentiment. This is the conclusion based on the analysis of divine sentiment. (Brs 1.2.59)
“Since the divine sentiment in Krishna is superior, there is no fault if Lakshmi Devi chooses to seek his association and performs austerities to that end.”
Mahaprabhu answered, “I am not saying that there is any fault. I agree that from the transcendental point of view, Krishna and Narayan are identical. The difference between them is based on an analysis of sacred rapture. When the Lord performs pastimes of opulence, he is Narayan. When he performs pastimes of sweetness, he is Krishna. She who is Radha in Krishna’s pastimes is Lakshmi in the pastimes of Narayan. Thus, when Lakshmi performs austerities to have the association of Krishna there is no question of her breaking her vows of fidelity to her husband. Thus, she went to perform these austerities in Vrindavan. But I have another question for you: Why, even after trying so hard through such penances, etc., to enter Krishna’s rasa-lila, was Lakshmi still unable to do so?”
Venkaöa Bhatta was terribly distressed at being unable to give the Lord an answer. Mahaprabhu observed his distress and tried to pacify him by saying, “You yourself said that Narayan and Krishna are identical from the theological point of view, but that the superiority of Krishna is determined by an analysis of the divine sentiments. Narayan is involved in two and a half of the five principle rasas, whereas Krishna is experienced through the complete manifestation of all twelve rasas, the five principle and seven secondary sentiments. Since Narayan’s lila is primarily one of opulence and majesty, his principle devotee is Lakshmi, who also worships him in the appropriate mood of awe and reverence. The same Lakshmi Devi is Radhika in order to heighten the experience of romantic love. Unless one follows in the footsteps of Radha and her expansions, the gopis, who are the repositories of the erotic sentiment, then it is impossible to relish Krishna’s sweet qualities, i.e., those virtues which are particularly inspiring for the romantic mood of love. The reason for Lakshmi Devi’s failure is that she did not follow in the gopis’ footsteps, but continued to perform her austerities in the mood of awe and reverence. As a result, she repeatedly found herself in the company of Narayan and never in that of Krishna. By way of contrast, the Shrutis followed the gopis in the raga-marga and so were ultimately able to achieve Krishna’s service in the erotic mood. As long as one continues to think of Krishna in majestic terms as lord and creator of the universe, one cannot possibly worship in the spirit of raganuga bhakti.
“Krishna has one extraordinary characteristic: by his sweetness he attracts the minds of the entire world. By taking on the mood of the Vraja gopis one can attain to his lotus feet--the people of Vraja have no idea that Krishshna is the lord and creator of the universe. Some think of him as their son and even tie him to a mortar, while others take him to be their friend and climb on his shoulders. The people of Vraja only know him as the son of Nanda, whereas in the attitude of awe and reverence, the devotee does not have a concept of such a relationship to him. One who takes the attitude of a resident of Vraja will attain Krishna as the son of the king of Vraja in Vrindavan. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.9.127-31)
“When the gopis, the objects of my worship, were abandoned by Krishna in the rasa dance they began to cry in the intensity of their distress at not seeing him. Krishna came to them in the form of Narayan, but the gopis simply paid their obeisances and moved on in search of Krishna, showing absolutely no interest in him as a lover. When Radharani stood before the disguised Krishna, however, he could not maintain the four-armed form but once again appeared in his form as the holder of the flute. Such is the power of Radharani’s love!”12
“Nandanandana Krishna is the avatari, or source of all incarnations. Narayan, Rama, Nrisingha, etc., are all his incarnations and expansions. Krishna is svayam bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
“From his being the Supreme Personality of Godhead other forms of Godhead are also given the appellation of bhagavan. He alone however can be called the svayam bhagavan, or primeval supreme lord. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.2.88)
ete camshakalah pumsah krishnas tu bhagavan svayam |
indrari-vyakulam lokam mridayanti yuge yuge ||
All of the previously mentioned forms of the Lord are either plenary or partial expansions. Krishna alone is the original personality of the Godhead. He and his expansions appear in every age to bring joy to this world when tormented by the enemies of the gods. (SB 1.3.28)
Through the power of Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s merciful association, Venkaöa Bhatta, his brother Prabodhananda Saraswati, his son Gopal Bhatta Goswami, and all the other members of his family, were inspired to give up the worship of Lakshmi-Narayan and became engaged in the exclusive devotional service of Radha and Krishna. Shrila Gopal Bhatta Goswami took initiation from his uncle, Tridandi Yati Shrimat Prabodhananda Saraswati. Proof of this is found in the Hari-bhakti-vilasa:
bhakter vilasamsh cinute prabodha-
nandasya shishyo bhagavat-priyasya |
santoshayan rupa-sanatanau ca ||
Gopal Bhatta, the disciple of Prabodhananda who is dear to the Lord, has collected these devotional activities to satisfy Raghunath Das, Rupa and Sanatan Goswamis. (Hbv 1.2)
Gopal’s parents were very fortunate, for they surrendered themselves, life and soul, to the feet of Lord Chaitanya. They ordered their son to go to Vrindavan before they left this world, absorbed in meditating on the Lord. Gopal travelled directly to Vrindavan where he met with Rupa and Sanatan. (Bhakti-ratnakara 1.163-5)
Gopal Bhatta comes to Vrindavan
When Gopal arrived in Vrindavan, Rupa and Sanatan wrote to Mahaprabhu to tell him. The Lord was overjoyed and immediately wrote back telling them to affectionately take care of him as though he were their own younger brother. Shrila Sanatan Goswami compiled the Hari-bhakti-vilasa and published it in Shrila Gopal Bhatta Goswami’s name. Rupa Goswami considered Gopal to be as dear to him as his own life and engaged him in the deity worship of Radha Ramana.
Shrila Gopal Bhatta Goswami became one of the Six Goswamis, but he always kept an attitude of meekness and humility. Thus, when Krishnadas Kaviraj approached him for permission to write the Chaitanya Charitamrita, he granted it, but under the condition that he not write about him. Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami could not go against the order of Gopal Bhatta and thus did nothing more than mention his name. Shri Jiva Goswami writes in the introduction to the Shaö-sandarbha that he wrote it on the basis of an earlier text by Gopal Bhatta. Shrila Gopal Bhatta Goswami also wrote a book called the Sat-kriya-sara-dipika (“Light on the essential sacraments for the Vaishnavas”). Thus his contribution to Gaudiya Vaishnava literature was in editing the Hari-bhakti-vilasa, preparing the notes for Jiva’s Shaö-sandarbha and in compiling the Sat-kriya-sara-dipika. He also gave great joy to the community of devotees by writing a commentary on Bilvamangala’s Krishna-karnamrita.
Amongst his disciples were Shrinivas Acharya and Shri Gopinath Pujari. The following story is told about Gopinath Pujari becoming Gopal Bhatta’s disciple. One day, Gopal Bhatta went to visit the town of Saharanapura, not far from Haridvara. On that occasion, a simple, devoted Brahmin engaged in his service in a most unpretentious manner. He had no children, but desired to have a son. Shrila Gopal Bhatta Goswami knew the desire of the Brahmin and blessed him that he would have a devotionally minded male child. The Brahmin promised Gopal Bhatta that he would give him his first son to be his servant and disciple. This son was Gopinath Pujari.
It is said that Mahaprabhu had such affection for Gopal Bhatta that he sent him his own belt and kaupina as well as a wooden seat which he had used. These items are still worshiped in the Radha Ramana temple by the current sevaits.
Shri Shri Radha Ramana
When Shrila Gopal Bhatta Goswami was visiting the pilgrimage centres of northern India, he found a Shalagrama Shila on the banks of the Gandaki River. He took the worshipable stone and carried it with him wherever he went, treating it as Vrajendranandana Krishna himself. One day he thought that he would like to worship the Lord in a deity form so that he could expand his service. On the very next day, he found that the Shalagrama Shila had transformed itself into Radha Ramana to fulfill the wish of his devotee. This deity stands alone without any form of Radha standing by his side. Instead, as a symbol of Radharani, a silver crown is placed on his left side.
The story is also told in the following way. It is said that Shrila Gopal Bhatta Goswami used to daily worship twelve Shalagramas. He developed a desire to serve the Lord in the form of a deity, thinking that in this way he would be able to worship him in a much better way. The Lord within his heart knew his feelings and through a rich merchant had many beautiful items used in the worship of the deity, such as ornaments and clothes, sent to him. Gopal began to worry that all these beautiful objects would be wasted because there was no way that he could use them unless he had a deity in human form. That night, he put the Shalagramas to rest and in the morning he saw that one of them had been transformed into the Radha Ramana deity.
When Rupa and Sanatan heard that Krishna had so mercifully appeared to Gopal Bhatta, they immediately came with the other devotees for darshan, and when they saw him, they were ecstatic with love. The annual festival commemorating Radha Ramana’s appearance, when he is bathed publicly, takes place on the full moon day of Vaishakh. The Radha Ramana temple is considered one of the most important in Vrindavan.
Shrila Gopal Bhatta Goswami ended his earthly pastimes on the Krishna Pancami of Asharih of 1507 of the Shaka era (1585 AD). His samadhi temple is behind the current Radha Ramana temple. By reading Shrinivas Acharya’s hymn to the Six Goswamis, Shad-gosvamy-ashöaka, we can understand their glories.
Shrila Prabodhananda Saraswati
tungavidya vraje yasit sarva-shastra-visharada |
sa prabodhananda-yatir gaurodgana-sarasvati ||
The gopi Tungavadya, who was most learned in all the scriptures, has today become the sannyasi Prabodhananda, whose words are all used in the glorification of Lord Gauranga.
Venkaöa Bhatta lived in South India. He held a special position amongst the Brahmins as he was very learned in all the scriptures.
There was a Vaishnava of the Shri-sampradaya named Venkaöa Bhatta who respectfully invited the Lord to his house. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.9.82)
In his commentary to this verse of the Chaitanya-caritamrita, Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakur has written: “Venkaöa Bhatta, Trimalla Bhatta and Prabodhananda Saraswati were previously acharyas of the Shri-sampradaya. Gopal Bhatta Goswami was the son of Venkaöa Bhatta.”
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur has also commented on the same verse: “Shri Venkaöa Bhatta was a Brahmin of the Shri-sampradaya who lived in Shrirangam. [FN: Shrirangam is situated on the Kaveri River near Trichinopoly. It is about ten miles from Kumbhakonam in the Tanjor district of Tamil Nadu. The temple of Shri Ranganatha is the largest temple in India.] Because Shrirangam is situated in Tamil Nadu, people no longer use the names Venkaöa and Tirumalai (Trimalla). This family had possibly moved to Shrirangam not long before Mahaprabhu’s visit there. Venkaöa Bhatta belonged to the Variagalai branch of the Ramanua sampradaya. One of his brothers was the tridandi sannyasi, Prabodhananda, who acted as an acharya of the school. Venkaöa Bhatta’s son was Gopal Bhatta Goswami.”
Previously, these three brothers were worshipers of Lakshmi Narayan, but they were converted to the worship of Radha and Krishna by the grace of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami has described this conversion in his Chaitanya Charitamrita.
Shrila Prabodhananda Saraswati’s disciple was his own nephew, Gopal Bhatta, one of the six Goswamis.
bhakter vilasamsh cinute prabodha-
nandasya shishyo bhagavat-priyasya |
santoshayan rupa-sanatanau ca ||
Gopal Bhatta, the disciple of Prabodhananda who is dear to the Lord, has compiled these devotional activities to satisfy Raghunath Das, Rupa and Sanatan Goswamis. (Hbv 1.2)
Shrila Prabodhananda Saraswati wrote a number of books, including Vrindavan-shataka, Nabadwip-shataka, Radha-rasa-sudhanidhi, Chaitanya-candramrita, which are especially loved by rasika devotees. Some of his other titles are Sangita-Madhava, Ashcarya-rasa-prabandha, Shruti-stuti-vyakhya, Gitagovinda-vyakhyana and Kama-bija-kama-gayatri-vyakhyana.
Is Prabodhananda Prakashananda?
In the third chapter of the Madhya-khanda of the Chaitanya Bhagavat, Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur comments as follows: “Prakashananda was a teacher of the mayavada doctrine and a sannyasi. While discoursing on the Veda, he cuts up my divine and transcendental body into pieces. Some inexperienced people say that this Prakashananda is the same person as the Prabodhananda, the younger brother of Venkaöa Bhatta who lived on the banks of the Kaveri. This error has entered into the sahajiya book named Bhaktamal, and the same erroneous belief has entered into the writings of many modern scholars also.” (Gaudiya-bhashya, Madhya-khanda, 3.37.)
That which Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur has indicated in this commentary is quite true. Ashutosh Deb has written in his dictionary under the rubric, Prabodhananda Saraswati, “A Vaishnava philosopher whose real name was Prakashananda Saraswati. Chaitanya Deva gave him the name Prabodhananda.”
Hari Das Das has also written in his Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana: “Some people hold that Prabodhananda is the Vaishnava name given to Prakashananda... It is clear from the last verse of the Radha-rasa-sudha-nidhi that Prabodhananda had at one time been a mayavadi sannyasi.”
We would argue that the words mayavadarka-tapa-santapta which Hari Das Das quotes as proof of Prabodhananda’s former adherence to the impersonalist philosophy are not acceptable as proof. Mahaprabhu and all of his followers argued against the impersonalist doctrines as much as they could because of its extreme opposition to devotion. The Lord’s deliverance of Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya and Prakashananda Saraswati are greater feats of mercy than even the salvation of Jagai and Madhai. This statement in the Rasa-sudha-nidhi is simply an effort to show the extent of Mahaprabhu’s mercy and his quality as the deliverer of the most fallen.
Saraswati Thakur’s introduction to Chaitanya-candrâmrita
In his introduction to the edition of Chaitanya-candramrita, Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur, the founder of the worldwide Chaitanya Maths has written an account of Prabodhananda Saraswati’s life. The rest of this chapter is a quotation in full of this account:
In 1510 AD, Shri Krishna Chaitanya went to Southern India in order to show his mercy to his devotees, though his ostensible purpose was to perform a pilgrimage. Starting from Puri in Orissa, he travelled southward to the Godavari and then continued through various other holy places. On the Ekadashi of the waxing fortnight of the month of Asharih, Mahaprabhu found himself in Shrirangam. The monks of the Dashanami order to which Mahaprabhu belonged normally follow the Caturmasya vows, and so the Lord decided to spend the four-month period in Shrirangam. This town is the residence of many Vaishnavas of the Shri-sampradaya. The Vaishnavas of this school are strongly fixed in their practice. Throughout southern India, Smarta Brahmins find it difficult to live in villages where the Shri Vaishnavas are strong. In that period, Shrirangam was a holy place exclusively inhabited by the Shri Vaishnavas. Mahaprabhu considered this a favorable environment for the execution of his four-month vow and so he spent the period in visiting the temple of Ranganatha and preaching about Krishna.
Three brothers, Tirumalaya, Venkaöa and Gopalguru had recently come from Mysore to live in Shrirangam. They were not Tamils but Andhras or from Uttarapradesha. The Lord was particularly merciful to this Brahmin family and spent the four months of the rainy season in their house. The middle brother, Venkaöa, had a son of five years who later became Gopal Bhatta Goswami, one of the six Goswamis.
The Vaishnavas of the Shri-sampradaya are devoted to the worship of Lakshmi Narayan. By Mahaprabhu’s blessings, this Bhatta family developed a taste for Krishna rasa. Although we know nothing more about Tirumalaya, we can surmise that he was totally devoted to Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The Lord’s conversation with Venkaöa Bhatta is described in the ninth chapter of the Chaitanya Charitamrita’s Madhya-lila. Prabodhananda was unequalled in his attachment to Shri Chaitanya. Through his pure teachings, Venkaöa’s son Gopal Bhatta became a great acharya of the Gaudiya Vaishnava school. Prabodhananda himself has a particularly elevated position amongst the followers of Shri Chaitanya. Kavi Karnapura has identified him as Tungavidya in his Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika. In the Hari-bhakti-vilasa, he is identified as Gopal Bhatta Goswami’s guru and as extremely dear to Lord Chaitanya. In the Bhakti-ratnakara, the following passages about him are found:
Some people glorified Prabodhananda’s virtues and thus he was given the title Saraswati by which he was known everywhere. Shri Krishna Chaitanya is the Supreme Lord and Supreme Absolute Truth. He was so dear to Prabodhananda that even in his dreams he knew nothing else. Prabodhananda was greatly renounced; he was affection incarnate and handsome, as well as being a great poet and expert in singing, playing musical instruments and dance. Everyone’s joy increased on hearing him speak. These are some of the unlimited glories of Prabodhananda Saraswati. (Bhakti-ratnakara 1.149-153)
Prabodhananda comes to live in Vraja
A few years after Mahaprabhu had returned to Puri, Prabodhananda entered into a deep understanding of the most intimate teachings given by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He left Shrirangam and went to live in Kamyavana in the Mathura region. Gopal Bhatta also gradually developed an intense desire to come and live in Vraja and so he followed the path taken by his uncle and guru.
Many people ask the question, “If Prabodhananda was so dear to Chaitanya, why is his name not mentioned anywhere in the Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami’s Chaitanya Charitamrita? Would he not have included the pastimes of such a great personality for the pleasure of the Vaishnavas?” We can find an adequate response to this question in the Bhakti-ratnakara. Narahari Chakravarti writes:
Some people have described these activities of Gopal Bhatta, others have not. Those who cannot understand the reason for this engage in useless argument, with the result that an offensive attitude takes root in them. Previously, great rasika devotee poets who were quite capable of describing these events did not do so in order that others would be able to do so in the future. Gopal Bhatta enthusiastically gave his approval to the writing of [Chaitanya-caritamrita] but would not allow [Krishnadas] to write anything about him. Who knows why he did this; likely it was his great humility. Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami was not able to ignore his command. (Bhakti-ratnakara 1.209...223)
Prabodhananda and svakiya-rasa
Some people say that Prabodhananda’s writing show a tendency to the svakiya doctrine. For this reason, Gaudiya Vaishnavas who consider the parakiya-vada superior do not show a great enthusiasm for studying his books. Anyone who is devoted to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is blessed. We simply follow Narahari Chakravarti, a neutral commentator, and avoid useless argument. We relish the writings of Prabodhananda which are filled with the sweetness of servitude to Krishna in the parakiya mood.
Prabodhananda’s mood is very clear. In his language, both gravity and sweetness are found equally. Mahaprabhu’s devotees take great pleasure in reading his Vrindavan-shataka. His Nabadwip-shataka resembles the Vrindavan-shataka. His Radha-rasa-sudha-nidhi is truly unequalled in the entire world. This book, Chaitanya-candramrita, does not bring quite the same degree of pleasure from the poetic point of view, but is nevertheless extremely dear to the devotees who have an attachment to the sacred rapture of devotion. According to one’s taste, one experiences a work as being superior or inferior. Thus for the transcendental moods of Vraja-bhakti to take effect on a reader, there is a certain dependence on his pious activities from previous lives. Another book, Viveka-shataka, attested by Aufrecht in his notices of manuscripts, is attributed to Prabodhananda Saraswati. The late Rama Das Sena of Berhampore saw this manuscript.
The Chaitanya-candramrita was widely distributed in Bengal. Even those inimical to Chaitanya became purified upon reading it and experienced a change of heart. It thus goes without saying that devotees of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu will be immersed in an ocean of indescribable ecstasy. When the Lord of Goloka comes and stays for four months in someone’s house and accepts service from that household, it is not surprising that he bestows upon that household the most rare forms of love of God. The insignificant living entities can hope to gain some crumbs from the storehouse of priceless love which these blessed persons possess.
Some people attempt to identify Prabodhananda with the Mayavadi sannyasi Prakashananda Saraswati who lived in Varanasi. We are not able to accept their arguments in any way whatsoever for the following reasons: The following account of Prakashananda Saraswati is given in the third chapter of the Madhya-khanda in the Chaitanya Bhagavat:
Thus the Lord constantly floated in the joys of devotion along with his followers in Nabadwip. One day, he heard a verse glorifying the Varaha avatar. He began to roar and went to Murari Gupta’s house. Being satisfied by the praises of Murari, he began to speak in anger against the Vedas: “The Vedas say that I have no hands, feet, face or eyes. This is the way that they make a mockery of me. In Kashi there is a rascal named Prakashananda who teaches people, cutting my body up into little pieces. He states that the Veda does not accept that I have a body. His entire body has become infected with leprosy and yet he still does not accept my transcendental form. My body is pure and the condensed form of all the sacrifices. Brahma, Shiva and the other gods all glorify my form and activities. What audacity this rascal has to say that my body is false when one accumulates merit and becomes purified by coming into contact with it. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.3.35-40)
This event took place sometime between 1425 and 1430 of the Shaka era (1504 and 1509 AD). Mahaprabhu came to Shrirangam in 1433 (1512 AD) which is the first time that he met Prabodhananda and his brothers. The three brothers were Vaishnavas in the Shri sampradaya following Ramanuja and thus believers in the eternal form of Narayan. Prakashananda was a Mayavadi sannyasi during this time, a prominent follower of Shankara’s doctrine. It is sheer madness to say that that these two persons are one and the same.
Again, in the Chaitanya Bhagavat, Madhya-khanda, the following mention is made of Prakashananda Saraswati:
As he spoke, the Lord was suddenly possessed by the spirit of the Divinity. Grinding his teeth, he angrily spoke the following words: The sannyasi Prakashananda is preaching in Kashi in a way that cuts my body into pieces. The rascal teaches Vedanta but does not accept my transcendental form. I have infected his body with leprosy, but still he does not understand. How can this rascal say that my body, which is filled with unlimited universes, is false? I tell you truthfully, Murari, for you are my servant, that anyone who denies my transcendental form is destined for destruction. My lila and my works are all true; my abode is true. Anyone who denies them will be struck down. The glories of the Lord will destroy one’s ignorance if one hears them, but this sinful professor calls it all false. Anyone who has so little affection for my holy fame will never be able to understand my incarnation. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.10.31...44)
At that time, Prakashananda Saraswati was the leader of the ekadandi sannyasi followers of Shankara, whereas Prabodhananda was a tridandi sannyasi in the line of Ramanuja, who had moved to Shrirangam from Mysore. Prakashananda was a Mayavadi living in Kashi, whereas Prabodhananda was a Vaishnava living in Kamyavana. One was a northerner, the other a southerner. One was an impersonalist and monist, the other a devotee who first followed Ramanuja’s vishishöadvaita-vada and then converted to Mahaprabhu’s acintya-bhedabheda-vada. One was an enemy of Vishnu and the Vaishnavas and only after conversion became a devotee, the other was the guru of Gopal Bhatta Goswami, an eternal associate of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and acharya of the Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaya. Anyone who calls Gopal Bhatta Goswami’s worshipable guru and uncle a mayavadi and enemy of Vishnu and the Vaishnavas, a conditioned soul, rather than an eternally perfect devotee of the highest order, is engaging in insults which are offensive and sure to lead him who makes them to a hellish destination.
In two places in the Chaitanya Charitamrita, an extensive description of the conversion of Prakashananda Saraswati is given. It is impossible to understand how someone who had been a mayavadi from 1504 to 1509, then a qualified dualist Vaishnava in South India in 1512, should again become the leader of the Mayavadis in Kashi in 1514. Therefore, any attempt to identify Prakashananda with Prabodhananda is evidence of extreme ignorance. It is no small cause of distress to see the tradition being uprooted in this way. As proof of his humility, Prabodhananda asked through Gopal Bhatta that his own activities not be described in the Chaitanya-caritamrita. Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami was not able to disobey this order and so today we have this problem. If Prabodhananda had known that as a result of this silence people would later fall into confusion and identify him with someone who preached against Vishnu and the Vaishnavas he would surely not have commanded Gopal Bhatta and Krishnadas Kaviraj in this way. Anyone who reads the Bhakti-ratnakara will understand. The author of that book writes:
Gaurachandra was the wealth of Tirumalaya, Venkaöa and Prabodhananda’s lives. The three of them were worshipers of Lakshmi Narayan whose preferences changed to Radha and Krishna as a result of the Lord’s mercy... The three of them wondered how they could continue living in the Lord’s absence; they wondered who would joke with them and who would accompany them to the Kaveri to bathe in the morning... After four months, when the Lord left, the three brothers began to cry. Mahaprabhu embraced the three brothers and tried to console them. Some people glorified Prabodhananda’s virtues and thus he was given the title Saraswati by which he was known everywhere. Shri Krishna Chaitanya is the Supreme Lord and Supreme Absolute Truth. He was so dear to Prabodhananda that even in his dreams he knew nothing else. (Bhakti-ratnakara 1.83-4, 128-9, 133, 135, 149, 150)
Professor Aufrecht has listed Sangita-Madhava as Prabodhananda’s work. We managed to trace this work and published it in the 18th volume of Sajjana-toshani, in issues 5-12.
Shri Vaishnavas who renounce family life never take the single staff (ekadanda), which is the mark of the Shankarites. Their custom is to take the triple staff (tridanda) and the title Ramanujaryasvami. Some people claim upon reading the Chaitanya-candramrita that Prabodhananda had been a worshiper of Brahman, but if we accept this without any supplementary evidence we fall into difficulty.
Shrila Raghunath Das Goswami
dasa-raghunathasya purvakhya rasa-manjari |
amum kecit prabhashante shrimatim rati-manjarim |
bhanumaty-akhya kecit ahus tam nama-bhedatah ||
Raghnatha Das is ascribed three different names from his previous identity as a manjari in Krishna-lila: Rasa Manjari, Rati Manjari, and Bhanumati. (Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 186)
Raghunath Das was born in around 1416 Shaka (1494 AD) in the town of Saptagram in Hooghly district. His actual birthplace was in the village of Krishnapura which is not far south of the current railway station name Adi Saptagram on the eastern bank of the ancient Saraswati River. Krishnapura is about a mile from Adi Saptagram station and approximately 1½ miles from Trish Bigha station.13
Shrila Raghunath Das Goswami was the son of Govardhana Majumdar. His mother’s name is not known. Govardhana’s older brother Hiranya had no male offspring. The two brothers belonged to the kayastha caste and were the primary landholders in Saptagram. In those days, the borders of Saptagram stretched from the Yashohara Bhairava creek almost up to the Rupa Narayan River. Raghunath lived in Saptagram Krishnapura, his uncle Kali Das, who was also Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s devotee, lived in Shankhanagara. Raghunath’s family priest, Balaram Acharya and his guru, Yadunandana Acharya, lived in the town of Chandpura. Yadunandana was a intimate disciple of Advaita Acharya and a dedicated devotee of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who had also received the special blessings of Vasudeva Datta Thakur.
After delivering the prostitute sent to tempt him by Ramachandra Khan, Hari Das Thakur left Benapole and came to Chandpura where he stayed with Balaram Acharya. Shrila Raghunath Das Goswami was just a young boy at this time, but he had the opportunity to see Hari Das Thakur and receive his blessings. Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami says that these blessings were the cause of Raghunath’s later being able to attain the association of Mahaprabhu in the last years of his life.
Raghunath Das was just a little boy engaged in studies he had the darshan of Hari Das Thakur. Hari Das was merciful to him and this mercy was the reason that he later was able to attain the company of Lord Chaitanya. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.3.168-9)
Raghunath’s desire to join the Lord
Hiranya and Govardhana Majumdar had an annual income of 800,000 rupees. At that time, a rupee could buy about 650 lbs of rice, which means several hundred times the value of a rupee today. Even though Raghunath was the only heir to this great fortune, he was indifferent to riches from his childhood. He had his first opportunity to see Mahaprabhu when the Lord came to Shantipur after taking sannyas. As soon as he saw the Lord, Raghunath fell to his feet in a transport of divine love. Raghunath’s father, Govardhana Majumdar, always served Advaita Acharya with faith and devotion, and thus Advaita Prabhu was predisposed to show kindness to the young Raghunath. He thus made sure that Raghunath received the Lord’s remnants for as long as he remained in Shantipur.
When the Lord departed for Puri, Raghunath returned to his home in Saptagram, but he had been transformed and was constantly feeling intense separation from the Lord. Seeing him in this condition, his father surrounded Raghunath by a guard of eleven men, including two Brahmins, four servants and five guards. Even so, Raghunath tried on several occasions to run away in order to join the Lord, but each time was caught and brought back before realizing his objectives. Raghunath became progressively depressed as a result of this situation.
In 1513, when the Lord made his attempt to visit Vrindavan, but only managed to get as far as Kanair Naöashala, he returned to Shantipur and again stayed there for a short period of time. Raghunath wanted to see the Lord and this time begged his father to give him permission to go to Advaita’s house. Govardhana was worried about the state of his son’s mind and finally decided to let him go on condition that he return quickly. He also sent a large entourage of guards to accompany him.
When Raghunath saw the Lord, it was as though he regained a new lease on life. He told the Lord of the intolerable situation he was living and prayed to him to tell him how he could break free from the bondage of his material existence. The all-knowing Lord could understand the depth of Raghunath’s feeling and yet he tried to pacify him with the following instruction:
“Calm yourself and return home. Don’t be foolish. It takes time to cross the ocean of material suffering. Don’t make a show of “monkey renunciation” (markaöa-vairagya) simply for other people’s benefit. Enjoy the worldly life in a moderate way without attachment. Be fixed on Krishna internally while externally dealing with the world in the appropriate fashion. It will not be long before Krishna delivers you.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.16.237-9)
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur has made the following comments on the word markaöa-vairagya: “To a superficial eye, monkeys are engaged in renunciation because they live naked in the forest without any fixed home. In fact, they are only interested in their own sensual enjoyment and have never given it up. Such show-bottle renunciation is called markaöa- vairagya, ‘monkey-renunciation’. Real renunciation comes as a side-effect of pure devotion, and other types of renunciation which arise out of frustration with material pleasures or desires cannot last throughout one’s life. Because of its temporary character, such renunciation is therefore called phalgu, or false. Such temporary renunciation, or monkey renunciation, is also known as shmashana-vairagya, ‘the renunciation of the cremation ground.’14
“One may accept things which are absolutely necessary in order to serve Krishna without becoming absorbed by them or attached to them. If one lives in this way, he will not be under the influence of the karmic reactions resulting from the involvement with sense objects. In the Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu (1.2.108), it is said:
yavata syat sva-nirvahah
svikuryat tavad arthavit |
adhikye nyunatayam ca
cyavate paramarthatah ||
One who knows his purpose should accept only as much as he needs to maintain his existence. If he accepts more or less than that, he will fall from the supreme objective.
Shri Jiva Goswami glosses the word sva-nirvahah in his Durgama- sangamani commentary with the words sva-sva-bhakti-nirvahah, i.e., a devotee should accept only those material things that will help him render service to the Lord, according to his own individual needs. In the Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu (1.2.256), markaöa-vairagya, or phalgu-vairagya, has been more clearly explained as follows:
vairagyam phalgu kathyate ||
Phalgu-vairagya is defined as the rejection by one desiring liberation of something which is related to the Lord in the understanding that it is something material.
[As I have written in Vaishnava ke?]: Shri hari-sevaya jâha anukula, vishaya boliya tyage haya bhula-- “It is a mistake to renounce something which is favorable to the service of Lord Krishna, thinking it to be an ordinary material sense object.”
yatharham upayunjatah |
yuktam vairagyam ucyate ||
Yukta-vairagya is defined as the attitude of one who is detached from the objects of the sense, but uses them only inasmuch as they have utility in the service of Lord Krishna.
[Once again, from Vaishnava ke?] asakti-rahita sambandha sahita vishaya-samuha sakali madhava—”All sense objects which are used without personal attachment and in relation to Krishna are identical to Krishna.”
Taking Mahaprabhu’s instruction to heart, Raghunath returned home and gave up his feverish desire to renounce material life and instead engaged in his various duties with a sense of detachment. When his parents saw Raghunath abandon all the external signs of renunciation, they were delighted and they began to think that there was no necessity for such a tight guard around their son.
Hiranya Majumdar’s tax problems
In those days, there was an officer of the Shah with the title caudhuri or nayeb who acted as an intermediary between the Shah and the zamindars. He collected taxes from the landowners and received a commission of 25% on them. Hiranya Majumdar, however, paid his taxes directly to the Shah, with whom he had a special agreement and thus cut out the middle man. Thus, on an income of 2,000,000 rupees, Hiranya was paying only 1,200,000 rather than 1,500,000, the difference which would normally have been paid to the caudhuri. Since he was losing a large amount of commission, the Turkish Muslim caudhuri became an enemy of the Majumdars.
Ever since returning from his meeting with Mahaprabhu, Raghunath was practicing yukta-vairagya in accordance with the Lord’s instructions. However, when he heard that Mahaprabhu had returned from Vrindavan, he started making preparations to join him in Puri. At that time, the caudhuri had started making complaints to the Shah about Hiranya and Govardhana out of anger at being cheated of his percentage of the tax revenue. Fearful of arrest, the two brothers had gone into hiding.
When the minister came to investigate the caudhuri’s complaints, he arrested Raghunath, since his father and uncle were not present. The caudhuri came daily to rebuke and threaten Raghunath, asking him to reveal their whereabouts. Finally he decided to have Raghunath beaten, but when he saw his calm, lotus-like face, he was unable to continue. In fact, though he verbally chastized him, the caudhuri was afraid to cause him any real harm because Raghunath belonged to an influential family of the kayastha class. He knew that the kayasthas are intelligent and could plot against him, causing him worse problems.
Raghunath himself was looking for a way to extricate himself from the situation, and spoke to the caudhuri in a sweet voice: “My father and uncle are like your brothers. The behavior of brothers is difficult to understand--sometimes they fight amongst themselves, sometimes they are loving to each other. Today you are arguing, but tomorrow, I am sure that you will be reconciled with each other. I am your son as much as I am my father’s and therefore you are my protector. It is not right for one such as yourself to punish his dependent. I need say no more, for you know the scriptures and are practically a living saint, a pir.”
The caudhuri was affected by Raghunath’s sweet words and began to cry as he was overcome by affection for him. He said, “From now on, I consider you to be my son. I will find an excuse to have you freed today. Have your uncle meet with me and make arrangements so that I can get my share of the revenues.”
Thus Raghunath was able to mollify the caudhuri by his sweet and diplomatic behavior and bring the dispute between him and his uncle to an end. In the meantime, Raghunath’s father was making arrangements for his son’s marriage to an extremely beautiful girl in order to insure his commitment to the family.
A year later, Raghunath once again became anxious to see Mahaprabhu and repeatedly ran away from home in an effort to go to Puri. Each time, he was caught by his father and returned home. Raghunath’s mother thought that her son was going mad and told her husband to place him under guard again. Govardhana responded in defeated tones,
“He has as much wealth as Indra, the king of the gods, and his wife is as beautiful as the heavenly courtesans. If these things have not been able to capture his spirit, then how will mere ropes be able to do so? The father who gives life to a child cannot interfere with the effects of his previous lives’ actions. Shri Chaitanya Candra has given his blessings to this boy. Who can keep prisoner one who was been made mad by Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu?” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.6.39-41)
While Raghunath Das was devising a plan for how he would be delivered from his entanglements, he heard that Nityananda Prabhu had made an auspicious appearance in the town of Panihati. Thinking that Nityananda was the deliverer of the most fallen and that by his mercy he would surely be able to find his freedom, he went across the Ganges to Panihati where he found the Lord sitting under a tree on a wooden seat, surrounded by his associates. As soon as Raghunath saw him from a distance, he fell down like a rod. The merciful Lord Nityananda immediately had him brought close to him and, understanding the deep-rooted desires of Raghunath’s heart, arranged for him to perform a service to the Vaishnavas so that he could realize them.
“Like a thief, you don’t come near me, but simply try to run away. Now that I have caught you, I shall punish you. I want you to feed all my followers chipped rice and yogurt.” When he heard Nityananda’s command, Raghunath’s mind was filled with joy. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.6.50-1)
The festival which Nityananda ordered Raghunath to put on is still celebrated as the Panihati Ciriadadhi Mahotsava. Nityananda Prabhu and a manifestation of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu himself celebrated the festival, eating on the banks of the Ganges just as though they were cowherd boys on the banks of the Yamuna River. Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Nityananda Prabhu, their associates, numerous Brahmins and countless men and women from the area enjoyed a feast of milk and chipped rice and yogurt and chipped rice. The opportunity to serve the Lord and his devotees in this way was something that could not come about except for some great fortune.
On the following day, Raghunath Das Goswami emotionally asked Nityananda through Raghava Pandit how he could possibly gain freedom from his material entanglements and find the association of Mahaprabhu. Like an ocean of mercy, Nityananda Prabhu placed his feet on Raghunath’s head and said,
“You arranged this feast on the banks of the river and Mahaprabhu was merciful to you and came here himself to enjoy it. He blessed you by accepting the offering of chipped rice and yogurt. Then, after watching the devotees’ dancing, he took prasad in the evening. Lord Gauranga came here just to deliver you and now he has removed any impediments which remained. He will turn you over to Svarupa Damodar and making you his confidential servant, he will keep you by his side. Go home now and forget your worries. You will soon be able to go to the Lord without any difficulties.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.6.139-143)
After discussing with Raghava Pandit, Raghunath gave a large sum of money as dakshina to be paid to Nityananda and his associates. He himself felt as though his life had been fulfilled after receiving Nityananda Prabhu’s blessings. Upon returning to his house, he never again entered the inner quarters, but remained outside where he slept in the Durga Mandapa. Nevertheless, there was always a guard posted near him to prevent him running away.
Though Raghunath knew that the devotees from Bengal were preparing their annual trip to Puri, he was afraid of joining them because he knew that he would easily be caught. One day, about an hour before dawn, Yadunandana Acharya came by the house while Raghunath was sleeping on the Durga-mandapa. He told Raghunath that a disciple who performed the puja had abandoned his service and needed to be persuaded to take it up again as there was no replacement.
Raghunath accompanied his guru while all the guards were still sleeping. After walking a way with Yadunandana Acharya, however, Raghunath told him to return to his home, saying that he would go alone to the disciple’s house and convince him to come and perform his duties. He told him not to worry and bid him goodbye. With no guards or servants around him, Raghunath realized that he had a golden opportunity to make his escape.
Meditating on Mahaprabhu’s lotus feet, he started to walk toward the east. He avoided the main roads for fear of being caught and even the smaller roads through the villages. Despite the difficult route through the jungle, he walked thirty miles on the very first day, finally taking rest in a milkman’s cowshed that evening. The milkman saw that he had not eaten for the entire day and gave him some milk.
When Govardhana heard that his son had run away, he immediately sent a group of ten servants with a letter for Shivananda Sena who was already on his way to Puri with the devotees, telling him to send Raghunath back. They caught up with the group of pilgrims at a place called Jhankara, but were disappointed to find that Raghunath was not with them. Meanwhile, Raghunath was walking at great speed towards Puri, completely oblivious to his own fatigue and hunger.
Raghunath arrived in Puri after only twelve days, having stopped to eat only three times along the way and resting only infrequently. He came upon Mahaprabhu, who was sitting with Svarupa Damodar, and paid his obeisances to the Lord from a certain distance. Mukunda Datta informed the Lord that Raghunath had arrived and was paying his obeisances. The Lord told him to approach and Raghunath fell at his feet. The Lord embraced him, his heart melting with compassion for the exhausted young man. He said, “Nothing is more powerful than Krishna’s mercy. It has dragged you out of the deep latrine hole of sense gratification.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.6.193) Raghunath answered the Lord mentally, thinking, “I know nothing about Krishna. I believe that it was you who pulled me out of that hole.”
Mahaprabhu’s maternal grandfather, Nilambara Chakravarti knew Raghunath’s father and uncle and used to call them bhaya because they were younger than he. They too called him dada (“older brother”) because he was their elder and a Brahmin. Knowing that this relationship existed between them, Mahaprabhu joked with Raghunath, saying:
“Your father and uncle are like worms in the latrine pit of sense gratification. They think that the suffering which comes from sense gratification is happiness. Even though they believe in brahminical culture and contribute to it, they are not pure Vaishnavas, only imitation Vaishnavas. The nature of the sense objects is that they make one blind; they make one engage in activities which result in material bondage. It is not possible to properly describe Krishna’s mercy which has delivered you from such bondage.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.6.197-200)
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur has written the following about Krishna’s mercy and the suffering caused by the poison of sense gratification: “Krishna’s mercy is more powerful than the results of one’s previous activities. It was this powerful compassion of the Lord which pulled Raghunath out of the latrine hole of sensual existence. A living entity who is attached to sense gratification does not have the strength to give it up. For the living being who has become a pure devotee of Krishna, however, sense enjoyments are like a ditch of stool. Mahaprabhu knew that Raghunath was completely free from any attachment to sense gratification. Nevertheless, he said this to him as a teaching to the conditioned souls.” (Anubhashya 6.9.193)
“Sense objects (vishaya) bring great distress to their so-called enjoyer (vishayi). Even so, those whose brains are completely immersed in the objects of sense gratification and are entangled in the whirlpool of material existence consider these sources of distress to be happiness. The objects of material sense gratification should be discarded in the same way that one abandons an outhouse, and one whose mind is possessed by the desire for these objects of gratification is like a maggot who feeds off the stools in the latrine. This is how the transcendentalist sees the materialistic person who is trying to extract pleasure from inert matter. He has nothing but disdain for materialistic pleasures which he sees being exactly like the pleasure a maggot extracts from the taste of rotting excrement.” (Anubhashya 6.9.197)
Mahaprabhu noticed that Raghunath was dirty and weak after his journey and so, after accepting him as his own son and servant, entrusted him to Svarupa Damodar, telling him take responsibility for him and to see to his well-being. He was thenceforth to be known as Svarupa’s Raghunath to distinguish him from Raghunath Vaidya and Raghunath Bhatta, who were also living in Mahaprabhu’s association in Puri at that time. The Lord also told Govinda to take care of Raghunath with great affection. He then told him to go and take his bath in the ocean and go to see Lord Jagannath, after which he was to join him for lunch. When Govinda gave Raghunath the remnants of the Lord’s plate to eat, Raghunath was overjoyed.
Things went on like this for five days, Raghunath taking the Lord’s remnants each day, but on the sixth day, he stopped taking the Lord’s mahaprasada. From that day on, he went to the Jagannath temple and took darshan of the Lord’s flower offering, after which he would stand at the Lion’s Gate and beg maha prasad. At night, after they had finished their duties, Jagannath’s servants would pass by on their way home and would customarily give prasad to any hungry Vaishnavas who waited there. In this way, renounced Vaishnavas could keep body and soul together. This type of renounced attitude was particularly noticeable amongst Mahaprabhu’s devotees.
When the Lord asked after Raghunath and learned that he was no longer taking prasad in the same way as before, but begging by the Simha-dvara, he was satisfied to see that he was taking the renounced way of life so seriously. He said,
“That’s very good. He is taking the life of a renunciate seriously. A renunciate should always be engaged in repeating the names of the Lord and should keep his body and soul together through begging. Anyone who takes the renounced order and then becomes dependent on others cannot achieve his ends and Krishna will ignore him. One who becomes a renunciate and then lusts for tasty foods will never attain his spiritual goal, and will simply become the slave of his tastebuds. A vairagi’s duty is to always chant the names of Lord Krishna and fill his belly with spinach leaves, fruits and roots. One who runs here and there looking for good things to eat becomes attached to his sex organs and his belly and will never attain Krishna.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.6.222-7)
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur has underscored Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami’s statement that the vairagi’s only duty is to chant the names of the Lord. He has written the following: “Examining them impartially, both materialistic non-devotees and pure Vaishnavas can see that Mahaprabhu’s associates are not attached to the gratification of their material senses. They are indifferent to anything which cannot be used in the service of Krishna. The reasons for such renunciation are incomprehensible to the ordinary materialistic person, for their service is without any external motive and it cannot be interrupted by any mundane impediment.When Lord Gaurasundara sees a devotee engaged in this kind of devotional service, completely indifferent to sense objects which are outside the scope of his service needs, he is greatly pleased with his clever attitude.
“The various rituals which are described in the Hari-bhakti-vilasa are meant for the wealthy householder and not for the vairagi who has renounced everything to take exclusive shelter of the Holy Name. One who chants the holy names in the morning, in the middle of the night, in the midday and at sunset, in other words throughout the day and night is certain to cross over the ocean of material existence. Those pure devotees who are fixed exclusively on the devotional service of the Lord and chant his names and remember him with love have no duty to perform other than kirtan and smarana.” (Anubhashya 3.6.223, translation of Hbv 20.366, 379, 382).
Shrila Raghunath Das Goswami would never speak to the Lord directly, but asked Govinda or Svarupa Damodar to submit any question or request to the Lord on his behalf. One day he asked the Lord through Svarupa Damodar to instruct him personally on his duties. When the Lord heard this, he told Raghunath that Svarupa Damodar knew far more than he did and that he should take instruction from him about the goal of life and how to attain it. When Raghunath’s eagerness to hear from him directly did not abate, the Lord said, “If he has faith in my words, then let him follow these instructions:
“Do not listen to gossip nor engage in gossip yourself. You should not eat very palatable food, nor should you dress very nicely. Always chant the holy name of Lord Krishna without any expectation of honor, offering all respect to others. Mentally render service to Radha and Krishna in Vrindavan.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.6.236-7)
The Bengali devotees arrived in Puri for Rathayatra and met Raghunath, who was particularly fortunate to receive Advaita Prabhu’s blessings. Shivananda Sena told him that his father had been looking for him. After staying four months in Puri, the devotees returned to Bengal and Shivananda gave news of Raghunath to Govardhana Majumdar, telling him of his determined ascetic spiritual practices. Raghunath’s parents were distressed to hear of his lifestyle and sent a Brahmin, two servants and four hundred rupees to Shivananda for Raghunath. The following year, Shivananda took these servants and the money to Puri with him and informed Raghunath that his father had sent them. Raghunath would not accept them, but thinking of his father’s benefit, he took some of the money and used it to pay for Mahaprabhu’s meals twice a month. After doing this for two years, Raghunath abandoned this practice also. In response to Mahaprabhu’s question about why Raghunath had stopped inviting him, Svarupa Damodar said that Raghunath had decided that since his father was a materialistic man, Mahaprabhu was not really pleased to eat the food purchased with his money. By accepting such money his own mind was becoming contaminated and his only gain was some fame and status. Furthermore, he thought that Mahaprabhu was only accepting his invitations out of kindness because Raghunath was so foolish that he would be unhappy if he refused, but that in fact he was secretly not very pleased by it. Mahaprabhu was greatly satisfied to hear this conclusion and said,
“When one eats food offered by a materialistic person, one’s mind becomes contaminated. If the mind is contaminated, one is unable to remember Krishna. The food of a materialistic person is infected by the mode of passion and both the person who offers it and the one who accepts it are mentally contaminated. I accepted Raghunath’s invitation for many days because of his enthusiasm. I am glad that he has realized all this and given up this practice on his own initiative.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.6.278-80)
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur has commented on the above events as follows: “People who are egotistical and possessive are generally materialistic persons who try to enjoy the world for their own sense gratification. Such persons see their money as a tool for achieving such sense gratification. If they attempt to serve the Lord, the guru or the Vaishnavas, who are beyond the material energy, their only gain will be an increase in material prestige and not the true benefits of such service. One who seeks true auspiciousness should therefore try to serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead by full surrender to his lotus feet and then engaging whatever money one has honestly earned in the spiritual service of Krishna, the spiritual master and the Vaishnavas, using his body, mind, words and heart.” (Anubhashya 3.6.275)
“Certain materialistic persons who are intoxicated by high birth, riches, learning or physical beauty, may make a show of deity worship, offer the prasad from that worship to Vaishnavas. Due to their ignorance, they are not aware that because they lack devotion, the Lord does not accept their offerings. Because of the taint of the sense enjoyer’s false pride which contaminates such offerings, it is often seen that the pure Vaishnava is indifferent to such apparent service to the deity. In other words, a pure Vaishnava who has renounced the life of sense enjoyment does not accept such service. Rich materialistic sense gratifiers are so foolish because of their sense of identification with the body and mind that they become angry with the Vaishnavas and offended by their behavior. (Anubhashya 3.6.276)
“Non-devotees and Prakrita-sahajiyas are considered to be materialistic, or vishayis. Because they offer food without devotion, an aspiring devotee will be contaminated by their association through eating their food. The result of such flaws in association (sanga-dosha), one will develop the same mentality as they. If one engages in even minimal association with materialists or Sahajiyas, who are materialists in the guise of Vaishnavas, through any of the six kinds of association (exchanging gifts, food or confidences), with even a drop of hidden affection, the result will be that the transcendental devotional service of Lord Krishna is transformed into sense gratification, and this will cause the aspiring devotee’s falldown. The conclusion is that one whose mind is fixed on the pleasures of the bodily senses and contaminated by the sense objects is too impure to be able to serve Krishna through the process of transcendental remembrance or smarana.” (Anubhashya 3.6.278)
Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakur has also written about the rajasika character of a materialistic person’s dinner invitations. He says, “Invitations to dinner are of three kinds, sattvika, rajasika and tamasika. The invitation of a pure devotee is in the mode of goodness, that of a pious materialistic person is in the mode of passion, while the invitation of a very sinful person is in the mode of darkness.” (Amrita-pravaha-bhashya, 3.6.279)
Raghunath Goswami’s asceticism grew stronger with each passing day. He stopped begging at the Lion’s Gate and started going instead to an almshouse. When Mahaprabhu heard this news from Govinda, he asked Svarupa Damodar what the cause was for the change. Svarupa Damodar answered that Raghunath was finding that a lot of time was being wasted standing in front of the Simha-dvara and was going to the almshouse every day at noon instead. Mahaprabhu praised Raghunath’s decision, saying, “Begging by the Simha-dvara resembles the behavior of a prostitute.” A prostitute stands around and waits for some man to come and give her some business, a beggar cannot remain indifferent as he waits for someone to be kind to him. Going for handouts at the almshouse does not present the same kind of problem. One simply has to go at the proper time and one receives enough to keep his body alive. This is useful if one wishes to use one’s time in chanting the Holy Names.
The sannyasi Shankarananda Saraswati sent Mahaprabhu a gunja-mala and a Govardhana-shila from Vrindavan. Mahaprabhu cherished the two objects, taking the necklace of gunja beads to be identical to Radharani and the stone from Govardhana to be identical to Krishna. Mahaprabhu would hold the Govardhana-shila to his head, to his eyes and to his heart, and this would bring him great pleasure. After worshiping the necklace and the stone for three years, he decided one day to give them to Raghunath as a sign of his satisfaction with his devotion. Raghunath felt honored and delighted by the Lord’s gift, and taking them to be the direct representations of Shri-Shri-Gandharvika-Giridhari, he worshiped them with water and tulasi leaves. When engaged in such loving service, he would go into a devotional trance. After his disappearance, the Govardhana-shila was placed in the Gokulananda temple where it is still being served.
It is said of Raghunath Das Goswami’s ascetic vows that they were like lines drawn in stone. He spent 21½ hours a day engaged in chanting Krishna’s names and in smarana, only one and a half hours for sleep and food. He only ate enough to keep body and soul together. He allowed no delicious foods to ever touch his tongue, and he wore only a piece of torn cloth and a quilt.
Finally, he started going at night to gather the prasad which the vendors outside the temple threw away near the Simha-dvara after it started to go so bad that even the Tailangi cows would not eat it. He would wash it to take out the dirt with which it had become mixed until he reached the hard core of the grains which had not cooked. This is what he would eat, only adding a little salt. One day, Shri Svarupa Damodar Goswami saw Raghunath doing this and came and asked him for some of this prasad, comparing it to the nectar of the gods. Even Mahaprabhu, when he heard about it from Govinda, came and took a handful of Raghunath’s prasad, though Svarupa Damodar prevented him from taking a second.
“What is this all about? You are eating such nice things and not giving any to me?” Saying this, the Lord snatched a morsel from Raghunath and ate it. As he was about to take another Svarupa Damodar caught Him by the hand and said, “It is not fit for you,” and took it away from him. (3.6.322-3)
Shrila Raghunath Das Goswami has himself summarized these experiences in his verses called Chaitanya-stava-kalpa-vriksha (“The desire tree of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s glories”) which can be found in the collection called Stavavali.
maha-sampad-davad api patitam uddhritya kripaya
svarupe yah sviye kujanam api mam nyasya muditah |
uro-gunja-haram priyam api ca govardhana-shilam
dadau me gaurango hridaya udayan mam madayati ||
By his mercy, Shri Gauranga took pleasure in delivering me
even though I am a fallen soul, the lowest of men,
from the blazing forest fire of great material opulence
and entrusted me to his personal associate, Svarupa Damodar.
He gave me the cherished gunja garland that he wore on his chest as well as his Govardhana shila.
And now he awakens within my heart
and makes me mad after him. (verse 11)
Raghunath goes to Vrindavan
Raghunath remained under Svarupa Damodar’s tutelage as long as he stayed in Puri, thus gaining direct access to Mahaprabhu’s confidential service and association. In all, he remained there for sixteen years until the Lord and his chief confidant disappeared to the eyes of this world.
When this event took place, Raghunath felt that he could no longer live in their absence and decided to go to Vrindavan to commit suicide by jumping from Govardhana Hill. When he arrived in Vraja, he met Rupa and Sanatan Goswamis. They spoke to him for a long time and finally persuaded him not to put an end to his life. They adopted him as their third brother and kept him with them. Rupa and Sanatan were enriched by hearing the nectarean pastimes of Lord Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu from Raghunath.
Raghunath Das Goswami’s separation from Mahaprabhu and Radha-Krishna became so intense that he gave up eating solid food altogether, only drinking whey to sustain himself. He would pay a thousand prostrated obeisances, chant 100,000 Holy Names, serve Radha and Krishna mentally both day and night, recount the glorious pastimes of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and bathe three times a day without fail in Radha Kund. This was the exemplary standard of bhajana set by Raghunath in which he served their Lordships for more than 22 hours a day, sleeping only an hour and a half, if at all.
Raghunath’s renunciation may superficially be compared to that of the Buddha, but when examined more closely it will be observed that there are some unique characteristics in Raghunath’s asceticism. The external meaning of renunciation is detachment from sense gratification, but its true meaning is attachment to the supreme person. Raghunath’s strong attachment to the lotus feet of Radha and Krishna meant that he was completely and naturally detached from anything which was not connected to his worshipable lords.
Shri Raghunath Das Goswami lived a long life. Shrinivas Acharya had the chance to receive Raghunath’s blessings before leaving Vrindavan to return to the East with the Goswamis’ books. Shrinivas was astounded by the powerful asceticism and deep absorption in love. Raghunath Das Goswami wrote three books: Stavavali, Shri Dana-carita (Dana-keli-cintamani) and Mukta-carita.
He lived in Radha Kund which was where he engaged in his most intense devotional practices. He was blessed there by Nityananda Prabhu’s widow, Jahnava Devi, when she visited Radha Kund.
When Mahaprabhu himself visited the village of Ariö and displayed his pastime of bathing in a rice field, by which he indicated the presence of Radha Kund and Shyama Kund. At that time the two tanks had not been excavated and finished with steps, etc. Raghunath himself thought it would be a good idea to have this work done, but had some reservations about getting involved in this kind of work. However, one day, a rich merchant who was on pilgrimage to Badari Narayan with the intention of donating a large sum of money to the temple there. But Badari Narayan appeared to him in a dream and told him to fund Raghunath’s vision of a developed Radha Kund and Shyama Kund. The merchant came back to Vraja and found Raghunath in the village of Ariö and recounted the story of the dream to him. Raghunath thus supervised the excavation of the ponds and the subsequent building of stone steps walkways.
Five trees stood on the banks of Shyama Kund which are said to be the five Pandavas. Raghunath had the intention of cutting down these trees so that Shyama Kund could be made perfectly rectangular. Before this could happen, however, Raghunath had a dream in which Yudhishöhira appeared to him and told him that the five Pandavas were present in Radha Kund in the form of these trees. Raghunath immediately stopped the workers from cutting them down. This is why Shyama Kund was not built as a perfect rectangle.
Other legends about Raghunath in Vraja
Another story is told about Raghunath Das Goswami. It is said that when he read Rupa Goswami’s play, Lalita Madhava, he was submerged in an ocean of separation. Though he he was permanently in Radha’s association at Radha Kund, he was unable to tolerate even a momentary threat of separation, what to speak of intense feelings of Krishna’s absence. When he read the Lalita-madhava, which has separation from Krishna as its primary subject matter, this mood became so strong that it became doubtful that he would be able to survive. When Rupa saw Raghunath’s response to his play, he wrote another, short work named Dana-keli-kaumudi which is full of humor and amusing banter. He gave this book to Raghunath and took back his copy of Lalita-Madhava. When Raghunath read Dana-keli-kaumudi, he forgot his feelings of separation.
At first, when staying by Radha Kund Raghunath had no fixed shelter. He occasionally stayed with Gopal Bhatta Goswami, whose cottage was situated on the banks of the Manasa-Ganga in Govardhana. One day he took bath in the Manasa-Ganga and then went to sit under a tree surrounded by unkept thickets and began to worship the Lord in a devotional trance. While he was meditating, a tiger came there to drink water. Sanatan Goswami was also present there at the time and observed Raghunath as he remained unmoved even though exposed to such danger. He instructed Raghunath to build a cottage in which to live and engage in his devotional activities.
Shrila Raghunath Das Goswami had special affection for a certain Vrajavasi whose name was Das. Raghunath’s daily nourishment consisted of only a leaf bowl of whey. This Vrajavasi was distressed to learn that Raghunath ate so little, thinking that it was impossible for him to keep alive on such a small amount. One day when in the village known as Sakhisthali, he was overjoyed to see a silk cotton tree with huge leaves. He had a bigger sized bowl made with these leaves in which he put whey for Raghunath and then brought it to him. Raghunath was quite astonished to see such a large leaf-bowl and asked him where he got it. When he heard the name of Sakhisthali, he immediately threw down the bowl and the whey. Sakhisthali is the home of Candravali, Radharani’s primary rival for Krishna’s love. Candravali’s sakhis like Shaivya and Padma are constantly looking for ways to take Krishna away from Radha’s bower and bring him to that of their girlfriend. Just as Radharani is distressed by these actions, so are her girlfriends. Raghunath was a member of Radharani’s entourage and so it was his role to constantly think of how to bring happiness to her and her girlfriends. As soon as he heard the name of Sakhisthali mentioned, he was transported by anger. This mood is the ultimate stage of love which envious people who are burdened by material lust could never understand. In the Bhakti-ratnakara, it is written,
After calming down, Raghunath said to Das, “That is Candravali’s place. You shouldn’t ever go there.” Das Vrajavasi calmed down and recognized that these were the symptoms of spiritual perfection in what was apparently a spiritual aspirant. All these devotees are eternally perfected souls. Anyone who doubts it must be considered fallen. (Bhakti-ratnakara 5.572-4)
There is one other extraordinary legend about Raghunath Das Goswami recounted in the Bhakti-ratnakara. One day he was suffering from indigestion. Viööhalanatha came with two doctors from Vallabhapura to cure Raghunath Das. After examining him, the doctors said that the indigestion had been caused by eating rice and milk. Viööhalanatha was astonished to hear this diagnosis and said, “This is impossible. This man never eats anything but whey.” Raghunath then spoke up, saying that he had indeed eaten milk and rice in the course of his meditation on the pastimes of Radha and Krishna.
Shri Raghunath Das Goswami left his body on the banks of Radha Kund where his samadhi tomb stands. This took place on th Shukla Dvadashi tithi of the month of Ashvina, in the year 1586.
Shrila Jiva Goswami
According to the Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika (195), Shrila Jiva Goswami was Vilasa Manjari in his previous incarnation in Vraja. In verse 203 of the same book, it is stated that he was the son of Vallabha and a scholar of exemplary character (sushilah panditah shriman jivah shri-vallabhatmajah). According to the Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana, Jiva was present in this world from 1433 to 1518 of the Shaka era (1511-1596). Other sources propose that Jiva’s dates are from 1533 to 1618.
Jiva’s early life
Shrila Jiva Goswami appeared in the village of Ramakeli in the district of Maldah as the son of Anupama Mallik (Vallabha) who had made his residence there in order to serve in the government. The name of Jiva’s mother is not known. Narahari Chakravarti has given Jiva’s genealogy going back seven generations. This list, as explained by Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur has been given here in this volume in the chapter on Shrila Rupa Goswami (page 14). Jiva Goswami’s father’s original name was Vallabha, but Mahaprabhu gave him the name Anupama.
When Mahaprabhu came to Ramakeli, he met Anupama for the first time. By his desire, a spirit of renunciation took root in Rupa and Sanatan upon meeting the Lord on that occasion. This led to their abandonment of their worldly duties and possessions not long thereafter and they set off in an effort to be reunited with Mahaprabhu in Vrindavan. The same spirit of renunciation took hold in Jiva Goswami’s heart at this time also, as has been vividly described by Narahari in Bhakti-ratnakara as follows:
Jiva’s mind became distracted from the time that his two uncles went to Vrindavan. He abandoned his jewels and fine dress, his comfortable bed and his various amusements. It was as though nothing interested him any more. He could not bear hearing news of political and other material affairs. (Bhakti-ratnakara 1.686-8)
Narahari summarizes Jiva’s early life story as follows: In a dream, Jiva had a vision of Mahaprabhu dancing in the midst of sankirtan. He was overwhelmed by feelings of divine love and soon thereafter left his home in Bakla Candradvipa. He had some companions who went with him as far as Fateyabad, but from there he continued alone to Nabadwip. There he met Nityananda Prabhu in the home of Shrivasa Pandit and received his blessings. Nityananda Prabhu told him at that time that he should go to Vrindavan:
With fatherly affection, Nityananda touched Jiva’s head with his feet. He showed incomparable mercy toward Jiva, lifting him from the ground and embracing him tightly. Transported by divine ecstasy, Nityananda Prabhu said, “I rushed here from Khardaha for your sake alone.” He said other things like this to pacify Jiva and then made Shrivasa Pandit and the other devotees give their blessings to Jiva. After keeping Jiva there for some time with him, Nityananda Prabhu sent him off to the West... He said, “Hurry off now to Vraja. That is the place the Lord has given over to your family.” (Bhakti-ratnakara 1.765-9, 772)
It is not clear whether Jiva ever met Mahaprabhu directly even though there is a hint in the Bhakti-ratnakara that Jiva was a baby when the Lord came to Ramakeli. Thus, Jiva demonstrated an interest in devotion to the Supreme Lord from his early childhood. Even when playing with his friends, he was only interested in games that were connected to the worship of Krishna.
When Jiva was a little boy, he refused to play any game with the other boys that had no relation to Krishna. He made images of Krishna and Balaram and would worship them with flowers and sandalwood paste and dress and decorate them. He would gaze upon them with unblinking eyes, looking for all the world like a golden doll himself, sitting motionless on the floor. When he paid obeisance to the deities, his eyes filled with tears. He would offer their Lordships sweets and then take the prasad and distribute it to his friends. (Bhakti-ratnakara 1.719-23)
Jiva goes to Vraja
By Nityananda’s grace, Jiva was able to visit all the sacred sites in Nabadwip Dhama. After completing the tour of the dham, he travelled to Benares where he studied all the scriptures with Madhusudana Vacaspati. Then he went on to Vrindavan where he remained under the tutelage of Rupa and Sanatan Goswamis.
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur has written the following about Shrila Jiva Goswami in his Anubhashya to the Chaitanya Charitamrita: “After the disappearance of Rupa and Sanatan, Jiva was established as the topmost teacher of doctrine in the sampradaya. He engaged everyone in the worship of Krishna through teaching the truths given by Mahaprabhu himself. On occasion, he would sometimes do the Vraja Dham parikrama with the other devotees and sometimes would go to visit Viööhaladeva in Mathura. Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami wrote the Chaitanya Charitamrita while Jiva was still alive. Not long thereafter, when Shrinivas, Narottama and Dukhi Krishna Das came from Bengal, he taught them and gave them the titles Acharya, Thakur and Shyamananda. He then sent them back to Bengal with all the scriptures that had been written by the Goswamis, with instructions to preach the religion of the Holy Names and love of Krishna. He received the news of the loss of the scriptures and later of their retrieval. He gave the title Kaviraj to both Ramachandra Sena and his brother Govinda. During his lifetime, Jahnava Devi and other devotees came to Vrindavan. When Bengali devotees came to Vraja, he arranged for their victuals and lodgings during their stay.” (Anubhashya 1.10.85)
The loss of the scriptures refered to in the above paragraph took place when agents of the king Vira Hambira of Vana Vishnupura stole them. Later, when the king heard Shrinivas Acharya speak on the Bhagavat, he was converted to Vaishnavism and took initiation from him. The books were thus recovered by Shrinivas. All this is described in full in this volume in chapter 17 on Shrinivas Acharya.
Jiva’s writings and controversies
In the Bhakti-ratnakara, a list has been given of twenty-five works ascribed to Jiva:
(14) Yogasara-stavaka öika
(16) Padma-puranokta Krishna-padapadma-cihna
(17) Shri Radhika-kara-pada-sthita-cihna
(18) Gopal-campu, Purva and Uttara divisions
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur has given the following warning in his Anubhashya to those inexperienced persons who might be deprived of Krishna-prema through the influence of ignorant and offensive sahajiya teachings: “Three slanderous ideas about Jiva Goswami are current amongst the ignorant Prakrita Sahajiyas. Anyone who becomes influenced by these calumnies will increase his offenses and will end up losing his taste for service to the Supreme Lord because they are, at their very root, inimical to Krishna, the guru and the Vaishnavas.
“(1) It is said that a certain dig-vijayi scholar, eager to amass mundane prestige, came to Rupa and Sanatan to get their signature as an admission of defeat in debate.Jiva’s gurus conceded defeat without any argument and the arrogant scholar proclaimed them to be nothing but ignorant fools. He then asked Jiva to also sign such an admission of defeat. Jiva, however, decided to take on the puffed-up Brahmin in debate in order to silence his scurrilous tongue. In this way, he preserved the integrity of his spiritual master’s reputation and demonstrated the ideal behavior of one who is guru-devatatma, i.e., one who recognizes his spiritual master to be his worshipable deity and source of life. The ignorant Sahajiyas, however, say that Shri Jiva’s behavior goes contrary to Mahaprabhu’s teaching of being humbler than a blade of grass and of giving respect to others while demanding none for oneself. Indeed, Rupa Goswami chastised Jiva for this very reason and ostracized him for some time, but later Sanatan interceded on Jiva’s behalf and had Rupa accept him again into his association.
“Only when these enemies of the spiritual master and the Vaishnavas receive Krishna’s mercy and begin to see themselves as their eternal servant, then will they also receive Jiva’s blessings and be able to understand what it really means to be ‘humbler than a blade of grass’ and ‘a giver of respect to all’. Only then will they be eligible to chant the holy names in the proper way.
“(2) Some other ignorant Sahajiyas say that when he saw the manuscript of Chaitanya Charitamrita with its clear language and brilliant explanation of the divine devotional sentiments of Vraja, Jiva was afraid that it would hamper his own scholarly reputation and therefore threw it down a well in a spirit of mean-mindedness. Upon hearing of Jiva’s action, Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami was greatly shocked and immediately gave up his body. Krishnadas’s disciple Mukunda had fortunately made a copy of the original manuscript and thus it was preserved and later published. Had he not done so, the Chaitanya Charitamrita would have been lost forever. This is another contemptible bit of invention based on an inimical attitude to the guru and Vaishnava. It has no basis in reality and there is no possibility of its being true.
“(3) According to other sense-obsessed fornicators, Shrila Jiva Goswami should not be accepted as an exemplar because in his treatises, he opposed the idea that the gopis of Vrindavan were married to other men (the parakiya-vada), but rather supported the svakiya-vada. They say that he cannot be accepted as a rasika-bhakta, or a devotee who is knowledgeable in the divine sentiments.
“The fact is that during Jiva’s lifetime, some of his followers demonstrated a preference for the sviya-vada. Jiva recognized their limitations and so, for their benefit and for the benefit of those in the future who would be unable to comprehend the transcendental nature of the parakiya-vada and would try to practice adulterous relationships themselves in imitation of Krishna, he accepted the svakiya doctrine. This is a sign of his acting as an acharya. One should not take this as evidence of his being opposed to the transcendental parakiya-vada, however, for he is the topmost of Rupa Goswami’s followers and one of Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami’s spiritual teachers.” (Anubhashya, 1.10.85)
Rupa’s mercy to Jiva
Narahari has shown how Rupa Goswami instructed Jiva, punished him and then blessed him, in a story told in Bhakti-ratnakara:
One hot summer’s day, while Rupa was writing Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu and Jiva fanning his perspiring body, Vallabha Bhatta came by to see Rupa Goswami. After reading some of Rupa’s introductory verses, he offered to make corrections. When Vallabha went to the Yamuna to take a bath, Jiva followed him on the pretext of going to fetch water. In fact, he was angry because he considered Vallabha’s proposal to be arrogant. He asked him what fault he had found in Rupa’s verse. Vallabha told him and Jiva immediately showed him the flaws in his argument. A debate ensued in which Jiva countered every one of Vallabha’s objections. When he came back to Rupa’s hut, Vallabha told him how impressed he was with Jiva’s scholarship, recounting the entire episode. Rupa gently rebuked Jiva, telling him to return to Bengal and to come back to Vrindavan only when he was sufficiently calm. Thus banished from his presence, Jiva left Rupa Goswami’s dwelling, but rather than going back to the family home as he had been told, went to Nanda Ghaö, a nearby village. Hoping to regain his guru’s favor, he began to practice rigorous austerities, worshiping Krishna intensely while fasting or eating only a bare minimum. As a result of such severe practices, his body became weak and sickly. One day, Sanatan Goswami came by there and was moved when he saw his condition. He took Jiva with him back to Rupa and interceded on his behalf with his brother. Thus Rupa and Jiva were reconciled and Jiva once again won Rupa’s affectionate blessings.
Jiva Goswami’s appearance day is on Bhadra Shukla Dvadashi, his disappearance day is Paush Shukla Tritiya. His deity, Radha Damodar, is still being worshiped in the Radha Damodar temple in Vrindavan. His samadhi tomb is on the grounds of the Radha Damodar temple and his bhajana-kuöira is preserved in Radha Kund, near Lalita Kund.
Vrindavan Das Thakur
vedavyaso ya evasid daso vrindavano’dhuna |
sakha yah kusumapidah karyatas tam samavishat ||
Vedavyasa became Vrindavan Das Thakur. Krishna’s friend Kusumapida also entered into him for special purposes. (Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 109)
Vedavyasa described Krishna-lila in the Shrimad Bhagavatam. Non-different from Vyasa, Vrindavan Das described Mahaprabhu’s lila in his Chaitanya Bhagavat. His book was first called Chaitanya Mangala, but when Locana Das gave the same name to his biography of the Lord, it was dubbed “Chaitanya Bhagavat”.
Vrindavan Das’s mother, Narayani
Vrindavan Das was born on the Krishna-dvadashi of the month of Vaishakh in 1429 of the Shaka era (1507 AD). Some say he was born in Mamgachi in the Nabadwip area, others say his birthplace was in Kumarahatta. His father was Vaikunthanatha Vipra, who originally came from Sylhet (Sylhet), his mother Narayani Devi. Narayani was the daughter of Shrivasa Pandit’s elder brother, Shrinalina Pandit. Kavi Karnapura has also mentioned her name in his Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika:
ambikayah svasa yasin namna shrila-kilimbika |
krishnocchishöam prabhunjana seyam narayani mata ||
Kilimbika, who used to eat Krishna’s remnants, was the younger sister of Krishna’s nurse Ambika (Shrivasa’s wife, Malini). In Mahaprabhu’s lila, she became Narayani.
Narayani also achieved fame because she received Gaurasundara’s mercy when he gave her his remnants. When the Lord displayed his divine form in the Mahaprakasha in Shrivasa Angan, Narayani was only a small child of four, but the Lord made her intoxicated with the ecstasy of prema.
Whether born in Mamagachi or in Kumarahatta, Vrindavan Das later lived in the village of Denuria, within the Matreshvara precinct of Burdwan district. Thus Denuria is considered to be his Shripaöa. He spent some of his childhood with his mother in Mamagachi, at the home of his maternal grandparents where Narayani was married. Vrindavan Das’s Gaura-Nitai deities are still worshiped at the Mamagachi home. When his father died, he and his mother moved to Shrivasa’s house where he received Mahaprabhu’s special blessings.
Vrindavan Das writes Chaitanya Bhagavat
Because of the copious blessings he received from Nityananda Prabhu, Vrindavan Das is said to have been his initiated disciple.
Vrindavan Das is the recipient of Nityananda’s blessings. He is the original Vyasa of Chaitanya’s pastimes. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.20.82)
He wrote Chaitanya Bhagavat in 1535 AD. Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami, the author of Chaitanya Charitamrita, has written the following in praise of Vrindavan Das Thakur:
Vrindavan Das, the son of Narayani, wrote the Chaitanya Mangala. Vedavyasa described Krishna’s life in the Shrimad Bhagavatam and Vrindavan Das is the Vyasa of Chaitanya-lila. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.11.54-5)
Just as Vyasadeva compiled Lord Krishna’s pastimes in Shrimad Bhagavatam, Thakur Vrindavan Das depicted Lord Chaitanya’s pastimes. His Chaitanya Mangala annihilates all misfortune. From it, I learned the wonders of Lord Chaitanya and Nityananda and came to know all the most subtle doctrines of devotional service to Krishna. Vrindavan Das Thakur has summarized the essence of the teachings of the Shrimad Bhagavatam in his Chaitanya Mangala. If even a Muslim or an atheist should listen to Chaitanya Mangala, he immediately becomes a great Vaishnava. An ordinary human being could not have composed such a sublime work; Lord Chaitanya himself has spoken through the mouth of Vrindavan Das. I offer millions of obeisances unto the lotus feet of Vrindavan Das Thakur who has delivered the entire universe through his book. He was born in the womb of Narayani who eternally enjoys Shri Chaitanya’s remnants. How wonderful is his description of the activites of the Lord, simply by hearing which the three worlds have become sanctified! (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.8.34-42)
Vrindavan Das became so absorbed in the description of Nityananda Prabhu’s lila that he did not elaborately relate all of Mahaprabhu’s activities, only summarizing them in abbreviated form. Krishnadas then elaborated on these undescribed activities in his Chaitanya Charitamrita.
Vrindavan Das the authorized biographer of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and equal to Shrila Vyasadeva. He has described the Lord’s pastimes in such a way as to make them sweeter and sweeter. I shall try as far as possible to fill in the accounts he left out out of fear of excessively enlarging his book. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.13.48-9)
Vrindavan Das’s criticisms of Vaishnava aparadha
Vrindavan Das primarily Mahaprabhu’s early activities such as his pastimes as a student, his childhood, his chastisement of the Qazi, his departure from Nabadwip, as well as some aspects of his life in Puri. Vrindavan Das Thakur demonstrated infinite mercy on the fallen souls by warning them:
eta parihare-o je papi ninda kare |
tabe lathi maron tar shirera upare ||
Even after being told how objectionable it is, if someone still blasphemes the Vaishnavas, then I will kick him in the head.
These same words are repeated in the Adi, Madhya and Antya-khandas of the Chaitanya Bhagavat. Some foolish and arrogant persons misunderstand such statements and criticize Vrindavan Das for having made them. Such criticism leads them into the mud of offensiveness.
In this connection, the remarks of Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur, the founder of the Shri Chaitanya Math and all the Gaudiya Maths, are well worth studying: “‘I am ready to kick the heads of those envious and hellish persons who blaspheme Nityananda Prabhu, if by so doing I will be able to forever prevent them from repeating their attempts to show disrespect for the Supreme Lord. Not only that, but if by so doing I can bring about a slear conception of the truth, I will be performing them the greatest service.’
“So says Vrindavan Das, the incarnation of Vyasa and acharya of the Vaishnava faith. If even a single fleck of dust should fall from his foot on the head of a sinful blasphemer, then that person will be blessed and all his sinful conditioning will inevitably be eradicated. In words which embody the Goddess of Learning and a flood of pure devotion, the Thakur reveals compassion for even the most atheistic blasphemer with the unswerving faith appropriate to a servant of Nityananda Prabhu, the supreme guru. He tells them that though they should be the object of indifference due to their foolishness, nevertheless, because of their ignorance of the truth of Nityananda, their insistence on rushing headlong on the path to hell, and their reluctance to act in their own real self-interest, he and other compassionate Vaishnavas like him who practice and preach the Lord’s doctrines unselfishly and disinterestedly act for their welfare. The compassion which is manifested in Vrindavan Das’s statement is beyond the comprehension of those who have no understanding of what is truly in their own self interest. Anyone who follows in the footsteps of Vrindavan Das, the incarnation of Vyasa, and both practices and preaches the Vaishnava religion is always engaged in an effort to bring about the ultimate well-being of everyone. Though he may make a superficial show of wishing to punish the enemies of the Lord, in fact he harbors a compassion toward them which knows no limit.”
Vrindavan Das Thakur’s disappearance day is the Krishna Dashami of Vaishakh. There is some dispute the exact year of his disappearance which was likely 1511 Shaka (1589 AD).
Kavi Karnapura (Shri Puri Das)
Kavi Karnapura is considered a branch of Chaitanya himself. His father was Mahaprabhu’s dear associate, Shivananda Sena. Karnapura himself identifies his parents in his own Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika:
pura vrindavane vira dati sarvash ca gopikah |
ninaya krishna-nikariam sedanim janako mama ||
vraje bindumati yasid adya sa janani mama ||
The go-between Vira, who previously brought all the gopis to Krishna, is my father. My mother was known as Bindumati. (Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 176)
Paramananda Das or Puri Das
Karnapura did not give his own identity in Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika, but from his knowledge of his own parents’ identity, we can surmise that he was an associate of Krishna in Vraja as well. In the Vaishnavacara-darpana, it is written:
Kavikarnapura was Gunacuda Sakhi in Vraja. He is a branch of Chaitanya who lived in K_~acariaparia. He accumulated spiritual power from Mahaprabhu when he placed the Lord’s big toe in his mouth and was given the name Puri Das.
He was born in 1527 in the town of Kancana-palli. His father named him Paramananda Das, Paramananda Sena or Puri Das. He was the youngest of Shivananda Sena’s three sons. His older brothers were named Chaitanya Das and Rama Das. All three brothers were devotees of Lord Shri Chaitanya. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.10.62)
Shivananda Sena’s entire family was blessed with the Lord’s unlimited mercy. The Lord himself told his other associates just how dear this family was to him when he ordered that as long as Shivananda and his family stayed in Puri, they should receive his remnants. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.12.53)
Kavi Karnapura received the name Paramananda Das from Mahaprabhu himself. The Lord also jokingly called him Puri Das. This child was born as a result of Mahaprabhu’s blessing.
The Lord asked Shivananda Sena the youngest son's name; Sena answered, “Paramananda Das.” Previously, when Shivananda Sena had visited the Lord, the Lord had said to him, “The next time you have a son, name him Puri Das.” The baby was already in his wife’s womb and was born after Shivananda returned home. He named the child Paramananda Das in accordance with the Lord’s wishes, and the Lord jokingly called him Puri Das. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.12.45-49)
Mahaprabhu gives the epithet Kavi Karnapura
The next year, when Shivananda Sena brought the baby to Mahaprabhu, the Lord showed the child much mercy by placing his big toe in his mouth. When Puri Das was only seven years old, the Lord himself gave him the title Kavi Karnapura upon hearing the wonderful poetry that the child was capable of composing. This has been described by Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami in the sixteenth chapter of the Antya-lila.
One year, when Shivananda and his wife were in Puri for the Rathayatra, they came with Puri Das to see the Lord. The child paid obeisances to Mahaprabhu, and the Lord said to him, “Say Krishna, say Krishna!” Though the Lord asked him to chant repeatedly, the boy refused to utter the Holy Name. His embarrassed father also tried to get him to chant, but the child was steadfast in his refusal. Mahaprabhu himself was amazed and said, “I have made everyone in the universe, even the non-moving beings, chant the names of Krishna, but have been unable to make this little child do so. What on earth could be the reason?”
Svarupa Damodar suggested: “You have instructed him in Krishna’s name. Because it is forbidden to repeat one’s guru-given mantra aloud, he will not reveal it publicly and will only chant it mentally. I would guess that this is what he is thinking.”
The Lord was happy to see that such a young boy was aware of this scriptural injunction. In his Anubhashya, Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur has explained: “The mantra which one has received from the guru is not to be revealed to anyone else, otherwise it will lose its potency. We have seen this previously from the story about Gadadhara Pandit.” This is why Puri Das would not repeat the mantra which had been given to him by Mahaprabhu himself.
Mahaprabhu asked Puri Das to recite a verse in order to make him break his silence. The child recited the following verse of his own composition:
shravasoh kuvalayam akshnor
anjanam uraso mahendra-mani-dama |
mandanam akhilam harir jayati ||
All glories to Hari,
the ornament for all the beauties of Vrindavan --
a blue lotus for their ears,
black collyrium for their eyes,
and a necklace of blue sapphires
to decorate their breast. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.16.74)
All those who were present were charmed by the lovely verse. A small boy of seven who had barely commenced his education was yet able to recite a verse of such quality! The gods like Brahma and Shiva are unable to understand Mahaprabhu’s mercy, what to speak of the ordinary jiva!
Though Kavi Karnapura received the mantra of Krishna’s name from Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, he nevertheless followed the social custom of taking initiation from Shrinatha Chakravarti, who is a branch of Advaita Acharya on the Chaitanya tree. In the introduction to his Ananda-vrindavana-campu, Karnapura has paid his obeisances to Shrinatha Chakravarti. In another introductory verse to that work, he has glorified Chaitanya Mahaprabhu as his family deity, saying that Mahaprabhu adopted Shivananda Sena’s entire family as his own. Some people say that Shrinatha Chakravarti’s deities are still being worshiped in Kumarahatta or Kancariaparia.
The following is a list of Kavi Karnapura’s compositions: Chaitanya-cartamrita-mahakavya, Ananda-vrindavana-campu, Alankara-kaustubha, Chaitanya-candrodaya-naöaka, Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika, Brihad-ganoddesha-dipika, Arya-shataka, Ahnika-kaumudi, a commentary on the tenth canto of the Shrimad Bhagavatam, Chaitanya-sahasra-nama and Keshavashöaka. He was still writing books in 1576 AD, the date of the Chaitanya-candrodaya-naöaka.
Kavi Karnapura, was dear to the Lord and became a writer of books in which he revealed the Lord’s blessings on Sanatan Goswami. (Bhakti-ratnakara 1.657)
Shri Locana Das Thakur
Locana Das Thakur was born in 1523 in Kograma, in the Katwa block of Burdwan district. This village is about ten miles north of Guskara train station. The Thakur’s home is situated near the Ajaya River.
His birth tithi is given by some as the first day of the fortnight of the waxing moon in Paush. He was born in the Rarihiya clan of the physician caste (vaidya). His father’s name was Kamalakara Das, his mother’s Sadanandi. Locana Das studied at his maternal grandfather’s house. He displayed devotion for Mahaprabhu from his childhood.
Locana Das was married at a very young age, according to the customs of that epoque. His in-laws’ household was in the village of Amedpura Kakuöa. However, though he had entered the married station, he was extremely renounced and spent all his time discussing Krishna-katha with other devotees of Gauranga.
Since Locana Das was married at a very early age, his wife at first remained with her parents, but as the time approached when she was to join him, they began to worry because of Locana Das’s indifference to material life. They approached his guru Narahari Sarkara and told him of their disquiet. As a result, Narahari ordered Locana Das to go to his in-laws’ home.
When Locana arrived in their village he was unable to remember where their house was, since it had been so long since he had visited. He asked a young girl in the street for directions, addressing her as “Ma”, or “mother”. When he arrived at his in-laws’ house, he learned that the girl whom he had addressed as his mother was in fact his wife. From that day on, he always looked upon his wife as a mother, worshiping Guru and Gauranga in an attitude of renunciation.
The Chaitanya Mangala
Narahari Sarakara Thakur, Mahaprabhu’s famous associate from Shrikhanda, was very affectionate to Locana Das and gave him initiation. Locana Das enthusiastically took up residence with his guru in Shrikhanda. His guru taught him the art of kirtan and later ordered him to write Mahaprabhu’s sacred biography. Locana Das took this order seriously and wrote the Chaitanya Mangala, the events of which are based on Murari Gupta’s Chaitanya-carita.
The word mangala means auspicious and this title reflects the fact that hearing Mahaprabhu Shri Chaitanya’s divine pastimes is the most auspicious activity for all the living beings. Vrindavan Das Thakur’s biography of the Lord was first named Chaitanya Mangala and was only later known as Chaitanya Bhagavat. Locana Das gives an indication of this in the introductory portion of his book:
I attentively pay my obeisances to Vrindavan Das Thakur; his Bhagavat’s songs have enchanted the entire universe. (CM Sutrakhanda, 1.35)
Some people believe that Locana Das and Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami gave the name Chaitanya Bhagavat to Vrindavan Das’s book. In the Chaitanya Mangala, Locana Das prays for his guru’s blessings as follows:
Narahari Das Thakur is the proprietor of my life, and out of the hope of attaining his lotus feet, I desire to sing the glories of Gauranga, even though I am the lowest of the low. This is my ambition. (CM Sutrakhanda, 1.9)
I offer my reverences to Narahari Das, the ocean of Gauranga’s qualities. Other than him, I have no friend in the three worlds. (Ibid., 1.33)
My lord and master is Narahari Das. I prostrate myself in humility to him. May he fulfill my desires. (Ibid., 1.61)
Locana Das wrote the Chaitanya Mangala in Eastern Bengal’s Pancali style, completing it in in 1537 AD. There is a legend that he wrote the book while sitting on a stone under a flower tree. In his new Bengali dictionary, Ashutosh Deb has underlined Locana Das’s contribution by stating that he was the first to write Bengali poetry using moric metres as well as being one of the first historical writers in Bengali. The original manuscript of the Chaitanya Mangala is said to be found in the personal library of Pranakrishna Chakravarti of Kandaria near the the Guskara train station.
Other titles attributed to Locana Dâsa are Prarthana, Durlabha-sara, Dhamali, and Bengali verse translations of Ramananda’s Jagannath-vallabha-naöaka and the Rasa-pancadhyaya.
According to the Bhakti-ratnakara, Locana Das was present at Narahari Sarakara Thakur’s disappearance festival and greeted guests by giving them sandalwood and garlands.
Locana Das’s songs glorifying Nityananda
In the Chaitanya Mangala, Locana Das describes his guru Narahari as being Mahaprabhu’s dearest associate. He does not describe Nityananda’s glories as extensively. Fearful that the neglect of Nityananda might be taken as offensive to his feet, he later wrote a few songs in his praise. These songs are particularly well appreciated by the devotees.
nitai guna-mani amara nitai guna-mani
aniya premera banya bhasala avani |
premera banya laiya nitai aila gauda-deshe
dubila bhakata-gana dina-hina bhase |
dina-hina patita-pamara nahi bache
brahmara durlabha prema sabakare jace |
abaddha karuna-sindhu nitai kaöiya mohan
ghare ghare bule prema amiyara bana |
locana bale mora nitai je ba na bhajila
janiya shuniya sei atma-ghati haila ||
Nitai is the jewel of virtue, my Nitai is the jewel of virtue. He brought the deluge of love of God and flooded the world.
He brought the deluge of love of God to Gaudadesha, flooding the devotees. The lowly and deprived are also floating.
He excluded not the lowly and deprived, nor the sinful and atheistic, but insisted that everyone take the gift of love which is beyond the reach of even Brahma.
Nitai cut the floodgates which held back the ocean of compassion, and went from door to door to give the nectar of love to everyone.
Locana Das says that anyone who has not worshiped my Nitai has committed suicide in full knowledge.
akrodha paramananda Nityananda Ray
abhimana-shunya Nitai nagare beriay |
adhama patita jiver dvare dvare giya
harinama mahamantra dena bilaiya |
jare dekhe tare kahe dante trina kari
amare kiniya laha bhaja gaura-hari |
eta bali Nityananda bhume parii jay
sonara parvata jena dhulate loöay |
hena avatare jara rati na janmila
locana bale sei papi ela ara gela ||
Lord Nityananda is free from anger and the embodiment of supreme joy. He wanders throughout the town without any pride or arrogance.
He knocks on every fallen person’s door and bestows the maha-mantra of the Holy Names on him.
Placing straw between his teeth, he says to everyone he sees, “Worship Gaura Hari and you will purchase me and make me your slave.”
Then he falls to the ground, looking like a golden mountain rolling in the dust.
Whoever lacks faith in such a compassionate incarnation is a sinner who will go as he has come, says Locana Das.
parama karuna pahun dui jana nitai gauracandra |
saba avatar sara shiromani kevala ananda kanda ||
bhaja bhaja bhai chaitanya nitai sudridha vishvasa kari
vishaya chariiya se rase majiya mukhe bala hari hari ||
dekha are bhai tribhuvane nai emana dayala data |
pashu pakhi jure pashana vidare shuni jara guna-gatha
samsare majiya rahili pariiya se pade nahila ash |
apana karama bhunjaye shaman kahaye Locana dasa ||
Nitai and Gaurachandra, are the two most compassionate lords. They are the essence of all incarnations, the crest-jewels of the avatars, the source of the unique joy of prema.
O brother! I implore you to worship Gaura-Nitai with firm faith. Give up your attachment to sense gratification and merge into this nectar by chanting the names of Hari.
Look, O brother! There is no benefactor in the three worlds who is as merciful as they. Even birds and animals are fulfilled by hearing their qualities, and stones melt.
Absorbed in the cycle of birth and death, you have fallen by the wayside without any hope for achieving their company. The lord of death will come and make you suffer the results of your activities — so sings Locana Das.
Gaura-nagara doctrine condemned
Followers of certain heterodox groups or apasampradayas say that the Gaura-nagara doctrine is found in the Chaitanya Mangala. This is not true, however. Vrindavan Das Thakur writes in his Chaitanya Bhagavat: gauranga nagara hena stava nahi bale -- “No one should praise the Lord by calling him the golden playboy.” Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur comments: “Gaurasundara is Krishna who has been endowed with Radha’s bodily hue and her mood of love. Thus he never abandoned the qualities of the heart of Radha and the other gopis, i.e., the character of the ashraya of devotion in the erotic mood. This means that he never acts like the vishaya (‘object’) or bhokta (‘enjoyer’) of madhura-rasa by looking at other women in the spirit of a playboy.”
Locana Das ended his pastimes in this world in 1589 AD. A brick samadhi at his shripaöa marks the place where his remains are buried.
Shrila Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami
Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami is the author of the Chaitanya Charitamrita, but has given us very little autobiographical information there. In his introduction to the Gaudiya Math’s edition of Chaitanya Charitamrita, Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur has written the following about Krishnadas’s antecedents: “We do not know the names of Krishnadas’s parents. Recently their names have been discovered, [FN: According to Ashutosh Deb’s Bengali Dictionary and Haridas Das’s Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana, Krishnadas’s parents’ names were as Bhagiratha and Sunanda.] but no concrete evidence can be found to substantiate these claims. Krishnadas is his spiritual, not his family, name. He has given some autobiographical information in the fifth chapter of the Adi-lila, from which we learn that he was born in Jhamaöpura, near the Salara railway station. Jhamaöpura lies four miles west of Naihaöi in the Katwa block of Burdwan district. To this day, Krishnadas’s Gaura-Nitai deities are still worshiped in his home town, but there do not seem to be any descendants of his family still living there. He was ordered by Nityananda Prabhu in a dream to go to Vrindavan which is where he spent the remainder of his life. His samadhi tomb is on the grounds of the Radha-Damodar temple.” (Bhumika, ii.)
Nityananda Prabhu appeared to me in a dream in Jhamaöpur, near Naihaöi. (1.5.181).
Shrila Prabhupada Saraswati Goswami has established Krishnadas’s dates by collating information from several sources. He concludes that he was probably born in about 1520 AD and died in about 1616 or 1617. Vrindavan Das Thakur appeared sometime after 1510 AD. Krishnadas’s magnificent biography of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was meant to serve as an appendix to his work.
Krishnadas’s varnashrama status
There is some difference of opinion about Krishnadas’s caste. Once again, Shrila Prabhupada, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur has discussed this point: “Supporters of different ideas claim that Krishnadas was born in one of the three upper castes (Brahmin, kayastha or vaidya). Kaviraj is a title given to those who have proven themselves by composing literary works which have achieved renown for their quality in learned circles. Since this title is also given to Ayurvedic physicians, some people hold that Krishnadas was a vaidya. It is difficult to contradict those who claim that he is a Brahmin on the basis of his extraordinary mastery of the scriptures and other branches of learning, of which Chaitanya Charitamrita is an eloquent testimonial. Nor is the view that he was a kayastha altogether illogical, as he reveals a soft spot for that caste when he praises its intelligence and managerial talents in the chapters about Raghunath Das Goswami’s early life.” (Bhumika, iii.)
From this above discussion, we can see that Krishnadas may have been born in any of these three castes. Whatever the case, a Vaishnava is a superior human being no matter in what caste he takes his birth.
All scriptures state that a Vaishnava is still the best of humankind. It it does not matter in which caste he takes birth. That most sinful person who judges a Vaishnava in terms of his race or his caste will repeatedly be born in the lowest forms of life. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.10.100-2)
There is no unanimous opinion about Krishnadas’s marital status, either. Some say that he was a lifelong brahmachari when he went to Vrindavan, for if he had left a wife and family he would likely have mentioned it when telling of his renunciation. Shrila Prabhupada writes in this connection, “After arriving in Vrindavan, Krishnadas became indifferent to talk about his previous family life and totally absorbed in Hari-katha. This behavior is appropriate for someone in the third or fourth station and completely committed to the devotional life. The Chaitanya Charitamrita is the composition of someone who has reached the status of a paramahamsa and is completely beyond the four ashramas. He was known as Kaviraj Goswami to his spiritual family. His spiritual identity in Vraja lila is Ratnarekha Manjari, or Kasturi Manjari according to others.
From Krishnadas’s statements in the Chaitanya Charitamrita, we also learn that he had a brother. Krishnadas does not give his name, but Hari Das Das writes in the Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana that he was called Shyama Das Kaviraj.
Krishnadas’s vision of Nityananda Prabhu
In the course of his glorification of Nityananda Prabhu in the Chaitanya Charitamrita, Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami describes the crucial event in his life. Krishnadas had organized a 24-hour kirtan at his house and amongst those invited was Lord Nityananda’s dear associate, Minaketan Rama Das, who also lived in Jhamaöpura.
Minaketan was a great Vaishnava who was in a constant state of devotional trance as he chanted the name of Nityananda Prabhu. In his ecstatic mood, he would sometimes hit people with his flute and sometimes slap them. In general, his ecstatic behavior was the cause of some astonishment amongst Krishnadas’s guests and most came to pay their obeisances and offer him their respects. Only Gunarnava Mishra, who had been engaged at the festival as a pujari, did not demonstrate a respectful attitude. This behavior was an indication that Gunarnava Mishra had no faith in Nityananda Prabhu. Rama Das became angry and criticized Mishra, saying,
”Just look! A second Romaharshana Suta who did not come forward to show respect when he saw Balaram!” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.5.170)
Gunarnava Mishra was pleased to have been chastised by Rama Das and simply continued in the performance of his service to the Deity. At the end of the kirtan festival, when Gunarnava Mishra had left, however, Krishnadas Kaviraj’s brother got into an argument with Minaketan Rama Das about what had happened. Krishnadas’s brother had strong faith in Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, but lacked similar faith in Nityananda. Upon hearing this, Rama Das was deeply wounded and he became so angry that he broke his flute and left. The result of this curse was that Krishnadas’s brother was doomed to completely losing any devotional attitude whatsoever. Krishnadas Kaviraj, however, took the side of Nityananda Prabhu’s associate and rebuked his brother:
”These two brothers [Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu] are like one body; they are equal in their spiritual manifestation. If you do not accept the divinity of Lord Nityananda, you will fall down. To have faith in one but to disrespect the other is as logical as accepting half a hen. Better you should be an atheist by denying the divinity of both than a hypocrite who believes in one and not the other.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.5.175-7)
The Lord is influenced by his devotees and he gives great importance to even the slightest display of attachment, bestowing upon them all that they desire. Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami writes that by taking the part of Nityananda Prabhu’s associate and chastizing his brother, he won the blessings of Nityananda Prabhu himself. Nitai came to him in a dream and ordered him to go to Vrindavan.
”O Krishnadas! Have no fear. Go to Vrindavan, for there you will attain all things.” After saying this, he indicated the way to Vrindavan by waving his hand and then disappeared with his associates. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.5.195-6)
By way of contrast, a person who holds devotees in contempt, though he show all the customary virtues is eternally deprived of the Lord’s blessings. The example is the zamindar Ramachandra Khan, who committed offenses to Hari Das Thakur, as a result of which he incurred Nityananda Prabhu’s displeasure. Not only did he lose everything, but his house was razed completely, leaving no remnants. Only a foolish person who lacks discrimination would be so bold as to behave unjustly toward a saintly person.
With words of profound humility, Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami proclaims the glories of Nityananda Prabhu:
I am more sinful than Jagai and Madhai and lower than a maggot in stool. Whoever hears my name loses the results of his virtuous deeds, and whoever utters my name commits a sin. Other than Nityananda, could anyone in this world show mercy to one as abominable as me? Nityananda is the incarnation of mercy; he is so intoxicated by ecstatic love that he does not discriminate between the good and the bad. He delivers anyone who fall down before him. Therefore he has delivered such a sinful and fallen person as me. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.5.205-9)
Krishnadas writes the final pastimes of the Lord
Without the mercy of Vishnu and the Vaishnavas, it is impossible to describe their glories. It is for this reason that Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami begins each chapter of the Chaitanya Charitamrita with invocations to Mahaprabhu and his associates like Nityananda Prabhu, Advaita Acharya, and concludes each chapter with a prayer for the service to the feet of Rupa and Raghunath Goswamis. He thus showed how important it is to avoid any disrespect or offense to the Vaishnavas.
The activities of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu are by nature wonderful and sweet. When described by Vrindavan Das Thakur, they become a shower of nectar. To describe them again would not only be repetition, but a display of arrogance, for I do not possess his powers. I shall thus only present a synopsis of those events already described fully by Vrindavan Das in his Chaitanya Mangala. I shall do my best to fully describe in this book only those incidents mentioned in his outline which he did not develop. I therefore offer respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of Vrindavan Das Thakur, praying that I will not offend his lotus feet by my action. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.4.5-9)
Just as Vyasadeva compiled Lord Krishna’s pastimes in Shrimad Bhagavatam, Thakur Vrindavan Das depicted Lord Chaitanya’s pastimes.... I offer millions of obeisances unto the lotus feet of Vrindavan Das Thakur who has delivered the entire universe through his book. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.8.35,40)
Vrindavan Das the authorized biographer of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and equal to Shrila Vyasadeva. He has described the Lord’s pastimes in such a way as to make them sweeter and sweeter. I shall try as far as possible to fill in descriptions he left out due to his fear of his book’s becoming too voluminous. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.13.48-9)
In his foreword to the edition of the Chaitanya Charitamrita published by the Shri Chaitanya Gaudiya Math, the president of the editorial board of Chaitanya Vani magazine, H. H. Bhakti Pramoda Puri Goswami Maharaj, has written: “Vrindavan Das Thakur wrote an elaborate outline of Mahaprabhu’s lila at the beginning of the Chaitanya Bhagavat, but as he became absorbed in describing Nityananda’s activities, many events mentioned in the outline were left out of the final version of the book. Mahaprabhu’s Vrindavan devotees approached Krishnadas Kaviraj, asking him to write down a full version of these pastimes, for if it were not done, they would be forgotten. Krishnadas then went to the deity of Madana Mohana and asked him for permission to do as he had been asked. In front of all the prominent contemporary members of the Gaudiya community in Vrindavan, the garland fell from Madana Mohana’s neck. This was taken by all who were present as a sign of the Lord’s approval and they let out a joyous cheer. Madana Mohana’s pujari picked up the garland and placed it on Krishnadas’s chest. Joyfully taking the garland as a symbol of the Deity’s wishes, Krishnadas began to write his biography of the Lord. Thus he has written in great humility,
Chaitanya Charitamrita is being dictated to me by Madana Mohana. My writing is like the repetition of a parrot. I write as Madana Gopal orders me, just as a wooden marionette is made to dance by a puppeteer. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.8.78-9)
In writing Chaitanya Charitamrita, Krishnadas made use of Svarupa Damodar’s notes, which Raghunath Das Goswami had memorized. Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakur has described this as follows: “Shri Svarupa Damodar Goswami wrote an outline in Sanskrit (karica) of Mahaprabhu’s later activities. He had Raghunath memorize these verses and told him to preach them throughout the world. These verses were not written down anywhere else, however. The Chaitanya Charitamrita is the gist of Svarupa Damodar’s karica.
Though I am an insignificant living being, through the blessings of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu I have summarized in writing everything that Svarupa Damodar recorded in his notes about the Lord’s pastimes, as well as everything that I heard from the mouth of Raghunath Das. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.3.269-70)
Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s glorious name, form, qualities and activities all manifest in Krishnadas Kaviraj’s heart, which he then published in the Chaitanya Charitamrita. He himself stated this fact in various places throughout the book:
I am now an old man and an invalid. My hand trembles as I write and my memory fails me. I am going blind and deaf, but still I manage to write and this is a great wonder. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.2.90)
While Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur was once glorifying the superlative character of Chaitanya Charitamrita to his disciples, he instructed them as follows: “If it were to happen that all the books in the world were destroyed, leaving only Shrimad Bhagavatam and Chaitanya Charitamrita, then the people of this world would still be able to achieve the ultimate goal in life. Even if the Shrimad Bhagavatam were lost, leaving only the Chaitanya Charitamrita, there would be no loss to humanity, for that which has not been revealed in the Bhagavat is found in Chaitanya Charitamrita. The supreme absolute truth is Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the combined form of Radha and Krishna. The Chaitanya Charitamrita is his sound incarnation. The divine mystery of Radharani’s divine status and glories are found therein. Can there be any doubt, therefore, of the supreme status of this piece of transcendental literature?”
This statement underscores the supremely special status of Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami himself. His three books, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Govinda-lilamrita and a commentary on Krishna-karnamrita, are all priceless works. Govinda-lilamrita describes in detail Lord Krishna’s activities over a twenty-four-hour period. Narottama Das Thakur has therefore stated:
krishnadasa kaviraja, rasika bhakata majh
jenho kaila chaitanya-carita |
gaura-govinda-lila, shunite galaye shila
tahate na haila mora cita ||
Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami stands out amongst the devotional literati, for he is the author of the biography of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He described both Gaura and Govinda’s lila, hearing which even a stone would melt. Alas, even so, my mind has not been attracted by these works. (Prema-bhakti-candrika)
Krishnadas was honored with the title kaviraja (“king of poets”) for his Govinda-lilamrita. He is also respected in the Vaishnava world as the best amongst the followers of Rupa Goswami.
The authoritativeness of the Chaitanya Charitamrita
From the illustrious commentator Vishvanath Chakravarti’s öika to the Chaitanya Charitamrita, we can understand a little better just how dear Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami was to Radharani, and by the same token, how the deepest and most esoteric truths of the Divinity were revealed to him, showing that every word he wrote is to be taken as the supreme spiritual truth. H. H. Bhakti Pramoda Puri Maharaj has recounted the following anecdote in his foreward to the Chaitanya Gaudiya Math edition of the Chaitanya Charitamrita: “While Vishvanath Chakravarti was writing his commentary on the Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya-lila 21.125, he was unable to understand why Kaviraj Goswami had written that the kama-gayatri mantra consists of 24½ syllables rather than 25. He became so distraught by his inability to comprehend that he finally took a vow to starve to death by the banks of Radha Kund. As he dozed off in the middle of the night, the daughter of Vrishabhanu appeared to him in a dream and said to him, ‘O Vishvanath! Get up. Krishnadas has indeed written correctly. He is my dear girlfriend, who brings me much pleasure. I have blessed him so that he can understand the most intimate truths about myself. Do not doubt anything he has written. In the book named Varnagama-bhasvat, it is written that whenever the syllable ya is followed by the syllable vi, it is considered to be only half a syllable.’”
In the Bhakti-ratnakara it is mentioned that Shrinivas Acharya met Krishnadas Kaviraj, Raghunath Das Goswami and Shri Raghava when he arrived in Vrindavan (Bhakti-ratnakara 4.392).
On the grounds of Krishnadas Kaviraj’s home in Jhamaöpura is a small temple containing Nityananda’s footprints. Local legend has it that Krishna-Das received Nityananda’s mercy, i.e., initiation into the mantra, at this very spot. According to the Prema-vilasa, however, Krishnadas took initiation from Raghunath Das Goswami. In the temple there is a wooden sandal which is said to have been Krishnadas’s. His cottage and samadhi tomb are in Radha Kund. His disappearance took place after that of Raghunath Das Goswami, on the Shukla Dvadashi tithi of the month of Ashvina.
Shri Jahnava Devi
tasya priye dve vasudha ca jahnavi |
shri-surya-dasasya mahatmanah sute
kakudma-rupasya ca surya-tejasah ||
ananga-manjarim kecij jahnavam ca pracakshate |
ubhayam tu samicinam purva-nyayat satam matam ||
Balaram’s wives Varuni and Revati became Vasudha and Jahnavi, the two wives of Nityananda Prabhu, in Chaitanya-lila. Both of them were the daughters of Surya Das, who was as effulgent as the sun. He was Kakudman, the father of Revati, in his previous birth. According to another opinion, Jahnava was the incarnation of Ananga Manjari. Both these opinions are possible, as we have shown that more than one identity can be joined in associates of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. (Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 65-6)
Jahnava’s father was Surya Das Sarakhela. According to the Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana, her mother’s name was Bhadravati. Surya Das’s Shripaöa is in the village of Shaligrama, which is not far from Nabadwip, situated close to the Muragacha station on the Eastern Railway. Surya Das was the third son of Kamsari Mishra. His older brothers were Damodar and Jagannath, his younger brothers, Gauri Das, Krishna Das Sarakhela and Nrisingha Chaitanya.
Shaligrama is not far from Nabadwip. Surya Das Pandit made his home there. He held an important post in the service of the king of Gauda, as a result of which he was given the title Sarakhela (‘commander’) and earned a large amount of money. Surya Das and his brothers were all very pure in their character and they had a spotless reputation. His virtues are innumerable. His daughters were Vasudha and Jahnava. (Bhakti-ratnakara 12.3875-8)
Surya Das Sarakhela and Krishna Das were brothers who both had great faith in Nityananda and were filled with love for Krishna. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.11.25)
Surya Das Sarakhela was a magnanimous devotee whose brother was Gauri Das Pandit. Gauri Das took his permission to come and live in Ambika on the banks of the Ganges. (Bhakti-ratnakara 7.330-1)
Nityananda Prabhu’s wedding
Narahari Chakravarti Thakur has written about Jahnava Devi’s holy life at length in his Bhakti-ratnakara. Every manifestation of Vishnu-tattva has three energies which are known as Shri, Bhu, and Nila or Lila. Nityananda Prabhu is also Vishnu-tattva and possesses these three energies. In the 12th Taranga of the Bhakti-ratnakara, Lord Nityananda’s wedding is described as taking place according to human custom. The essence of that description is as follows.
A certain kayastha named Krishna Das, the son of Harihoria of Bariagachi, a village near Shaligrama, took the responsibility of seeking a wife for Nityananda Prabhu. A certain elderly Brahmin from Shaligrama saw that Surya Das was worried about finding a suitable husband for his two daughters and made the following suggestion: “In the village of Ekacakra in Rarhadesha are a couple named Hariai Pandit and Padmavati Devi. They were Vasudeva and Rohini in their previous lives in Krishna-lila. Balaram has become incarnate as their son, Nityananda. Nitai travelled to all the places of pilgrimage and performed many austerities and became a great scholar before coming to Nabadwip and becoming Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s dearest associate. He is the eternal husband of your two daughters.”
In a dream, Surya Das also had a vision of Nityananda as Balaram with Vasudha and Jahnava standing to his left and right in their forms as Revati and Varuni. When Surya Das took the Brahmin’s advice seriously and offered the two girls to Nityananda’s lotus feet, Nityananda Prabhu mercifully gave him the same vision directly. Surya Das fainted in ecstasy.
He saw Vasudha and Jahnava as Varuni and Revati, whose forms were more effulgent than mountains of gold and kunkum. Standing to the left and right of Balaram, they were decorated in magnificent jewelry and bedecked in fine, colorful clothes. Nityananda revealed this magnificence to his devotee in order to give him joy, and Surya Das completely forgot himself in his ecstasy. (Bhakti-ratnakara 12.3908-10)
The adhivasa rituals on the eve of the wedding were conducted in the house of Krishna Das Sarakhela in Shaligrama. All the Brahmins of Bariagachi and Shaligrama were present there.
The fortunate Surya Das Sarakhela gave his two daughters away to Nityananda Prabhu according to the religious rites and popular custom. (Bhakti-ratnakara 12.3983)
At Sachi Mata’s request, Nityananda Prabhu stayed for some time after his wedding in Shantipur before moving to Saptagram, where he stayed with Uddharan Datta, and then establishing a permanent residence at Khardaha on the banks of the Ganges.
Jahnava Devi herself had no sons, but Nityananda’s Shakti Vasudha Devi gave birth to Virabhadra (or Viracandra) Goswami and Ganga Devi, who are the incarnations of Kshirodakashayi Vishnu and the river Ganges, respectively. According to the Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika (69), Ganga Devi’s husband Madhavacharya is an incarnation of King Shantanu.
Jahnava Devi’s glories
Virabhadra Goswami was inundated with Jahnava Mata’s mercy, becoming her direct initiated disciple. Nityananda Das writes in his Prema-vilasa that when Virabhadra saw Jahnava in a four-armed form that his mind was changed and he decided to accept her as his diksha guru.
Without the mercy of Nityananda Prabhu’s energy Jahnava Devi, no one is able to cross over the ocean of material life, nor can one obtain the service of Nityananda Prabhu and enter into the loving service of his worshipable Gaurahari and Radha Krishna. Bhaktivinoda Thakur has written in his Kalyana-kalpa-taru:
O Jahnava Devi! Be merciful to this servant today. Deliver me from my pain and give me a place in the boat of your lotus feet so that I can be sure to cross over the ocean of birth and death. You are Nityananda’s energy, you are devotion to Krishna and my guru. Please give this servant the desire tree of your lotus feet. How numerous are the fallen souls that you have saved, so this fallen beggar seeks a place at your feet.
The mahajana Krishna Das, in his song which begins jaya Radhe jaya Krishna jaya Vrindavan, has prayed for Jahnava Devi’s mercy after glorifying Krishna’s name, abode and associates. “Remembering Jahnava Devi’s lotus feet, the lowly Krishna Das sings the names of the Lord.”
Jahnava Devi’s travels
Jahnava was present when Narottama Das Thakur put on a great festival at Kheturi village to install the deities on Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s appearance day. Indeed, the installation of the deities took place under her direction. She also supervised and personally participated in the cooking of the first offering and made the first offering to the deities. She served the prasad to the assembled mahantas.
Jahnava Ishvari rose early that morning in great delight and took her bath and did her mantra meditation. Then she began to cook innumerable vegetable preparations with great enthusiasm. (Bhakti-ratnakara 10.686-7)
All of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s personal associates from Bengal were very happy to see Narottama Das. Jahnava Devi, the daughter of Surya Pandit and wife of Nityananda Prabhu, worshiped by the entire universe, expert in the distribution of the pearl of prema, was delighted to hear his name. Her joy increased when she observed his uncommon love for Krishna and his renunciation. Out of her mercy, she came to Kheturi, satisfying everyone by being present there and giving her darshan to all. How can a fallen person like myself fully describe the compassionate nature of Shrimati Jahnava Devi. (Bhakti-ratnakara 1.429-34)
Jahnava Devi’s travels are described in the eleventh Taranga of Bhakti-ratnakara. On the road from Kheturi to Braj she stopped in a prosperous village where she delivered some atheistic unbelievers and criminals and bestowed Krishna-prema upon them. When she arrived in Vrindavan, she saw the samadhi of Gauri Das Pandit which moved her to tears. When in Vrindavan, the leaders of the Vaishnava community such as Jiva Goswami, Gopal Bhatta Goswami, Lokanatha Gosvami, Bhugarbha Goswami, Madhu Pandit, etc., all came to offer her their respectful greetings. Taking these leaders with her, she visited the principle temples of Vrindavan -- Madana Mohana, Govinda and Gopinath -- before going to Radha Kund. There she met Raghunath Das Goswami, who was engaged in constant chanting of the Holy Names, and whose body was emaciated by his austerities.
Jahnava remained in Radha Kund for three days engaged in bhajana. She heard the sound of Krishna’s flute while sitting on the banks of the tank and had a vision of Shri Krishna which overwhelmed her with waves of divine love. The ghaö where Jahnava bathed and had this vision is today known as Shri Jahnava Ghaö. She then took the company of Vaishnavas on a parikrama of Vraja-mandala. During this parikrama she heard Jiva Goswami discourse on Brihad-Bhagavatamrita.
After her visit to Braj, Jahnava returned to Gauda-desha where she visited numerous villages. She spent three or four days in Kheturi (Narottama Das’s home), some time in Budhuri (the home of Ramachandra Kaviraj in Murshidabad district), the place of Nityananda’s birth in Ekacakra (Birbhum), Katwa (where Mahaprabhu took sannyas and where she met Yadunandana Acharya), Jajigrama (Shrinivas Acharya’s home village), Shrikhanda (the home of Raghunandan Thakur, son of Narahari Sarkara Thakur), Nabadwip, Ambika, Saptagram (where she visited Uddharan Datta’s house) before finally returning to Khardaha. There she recounted the story of her entire voyage to Vasudha and Virabhadra Goswami.
By Jahnava Devi’s mercy, Nityananda’s dear associate Paramesvari Das Thakur was fortunate enough to see Gopinath united with Radharani in Vrindavan. When he returned to Khardaha and told what he had seen to Jahnava and Vasudha, Jahnava was overwhelmed with loving ecstasies. She instructed him to immediately go to the village of _~Atpur and to install deities of Radha and Gopinath there.
Jahnava Devi arranged for Virabhadra’s marriage to Yadunandana Acharya’s two daughters, Shrimati and Narayani, both of whom became disciples of Jahnava.
Nityananda’s shakti, Shrimati Jahnava Devi disappeared on the shukla navami tithi of Vaishakh.
Shri Viracandra Prabhu (Virabhadra)
sankarshanasya yo vyuhah payobdhi-shayi-namakah |
sa eva viracandro’bhuc chaitanyabhinna-vigrahah ||
The expansion of Sankarshan who sleeps on the ocean of milk, Kshirodakashayi Vishnu, has become Viracandra, who is not different from Chaitanya himself. (Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 67)
The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Shri Krishna, is the origin of unlimited expansions and incarnations. He is the avatari. His first expansion is the root Sankarshan or Balaram. This same Balaram appeared with Lord Chaitanya as Nityananda Prabhu. Balaram’s expanison Maha-Sankarshan has his abode in the Vaikuntha planets, and he in turn expands as the purushavataras in the work of creation of the universe, first as the Karanodakashayi Vishnu, who lies in the causal ocean, then as Garbhodakashayi Vishnu, who lies in the ocean within the individual universes, and finally as the Kshirodakashayi Vishnu, who not only lies in the ocean of milk, but is the director of the individual universe and is present as the indweller of every living being within the universe. He is also known as Aniruddha and, in the course of Mahaprabhu Shri Chaitanya’s pastimes, appeared as Virabhadra Prabhu, the son of Lord Nityananda and his energy, Vasudha Devi.
Krishna Das Kaviraj Goswami has written in his Chaitanya Charitamrita that Virabhadra is the best of all the branches of Nityananda trunk of the tree of devotional service which grew with Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s pastimes.
The best of all of Nityananda’s branches is Virabhadra Goswami. The subbranches which grew out of him are unlimited in number. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.11.56)
As with all Vishnu-tattvas, in Virabhadra’s life the three energies, Shri, Bhu (or Bhakti), and Nila (or Lila) Shakti, are present. Virabhadra’s Shri-shakti was named Shrimati, who appeared in the village of Jhamaöpur in Hooghly district as the daughter of Yadunatha Acharya and Vidyunmala (or Lakshmi).
Yadunandana’s wife Lakshmi was extremely chaste and devoted to her husband. Two daughters were born to her, Shrimati and Narayani, both of whom were startlingly beautiful. At Jahnava’s behest, the fortunate Brahmin gave both of his daughters in marriage to Virabhadra. (Bhakti-ratnakara 13.251-3)
Though Virabhadra belongs to the category of Vishnu-tattva, it is his lila to behave like a devotee:
The greatest branch coming out of the trunk named Nityananda is Virabhadra Goswami, who also has innumerable branches and subbranches. It is not possible to describe them all. Although he is the Lord of the creation, Virabhadra presented himself as a great devotee. Though transcendental to all Vedic injunctions, he strictly followed the Vedic religion. Though the power of God was operating within him, out of sight to the world, he showed no pride. He is the main pillar holding up the edifice of devotional service to Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. It is by the glorious mercy of Shri Virabhadra Gosani that people all over the world now have the chance to chant the names of Chaitanya and Nityananda. I therefore take shelter of the lotus feet of Virabhadra Goswami for by his mercy all desires are fulfilled. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.11.8-12)
Shri Narahari Chakravarti Thakur has written the following about Virabhadra in his Bhakti-ratnakara:
Nityananda Prabhu had a single son, Virabhadra, who was an ocean of virtue and capable of purifying the world. Who can sufficiently glorify him, for their is no limit to his glories? He is famed as the branch of the Nityananda Prabhu... He is the root of all joy, is sometimes known as Virabhadra and sometimes as Viracandra. If anyone sees him even once he will give up everything and make his lotus feet his all-in-all in life. (Bhakti-ratnakara 9.413-4, 420-1)
Virabhadra took initiation from his aunt and stepmother, Jahnava Devi. In his Anubhashya, Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur has written, “Virabhadra Goswami had three disciples who were later celebrated as his sons—Gopijana-vallabha, Ramakrishna and Ramachandra. The youngest, Ramachandra, belonged to the Shandilya dynasty and had the surname Baöavyala. He established his family at Khardaha, and its members are known as the gosvamis of Khardaha. The eldest disciple, Gopijana-vallabha, was a resident of a village known as Lata, near the Manakara railway station in the district of Burdwan. The second, Ramakrishna, lived near Maladaha, in a village named Gayeshapura.”
It is described in the thirteenth chapter of the Bhakti-ratnakara that Virabhadra took permission from his mother Vasudha to go to Vrindavan. He did the Vraja Dham parikrama with the blessings of Bhugarbha and Shri Jiva Goswamis.
At Khardaha, the old Shyamasundar temple has a manuscript of the Bhagavat which is said to have been handwritten by Virabhadra Prabhu. Some hold that this was actually written by Nityananda Prabhu himself. Virabhadra personally brought a piece of stone from which the deities worshiped there were carved. Their names are Shyamasundar, Radhavallabha, and Nandadulala. The quay on the Ganges where this stone was unloaded and brought on shore is known as Shyamasundar Ghaö. Virabhadra established the custom of celebrating the birth of Nityananda Prabhu at Khardaha. The current managers of the Khardaha temple have many other legends about the life of Virabhadra Goswami.
The date of Virabhadra’s appearance is given as Karttik krishna navami. The Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana gives the date as Agrahayan shukla caturdashi.
Shrila Gopal Guru Goswami
Gopal Guru Goswami was born in an Orissan Brahmin family. His father’s name was Murari Pandit. His mother’s name is unknown. While still a child, he had the opportunity to serve Mahaprabhu through Govinda, the Lord’s servant. His original name was Makaradhvaja Pandit, but Mahaprabhu used to affectionately call him Gopal. His name is found in neither the Chaitanya Charitamrita nor the Chaitanya Bhagavat.
He was initiated by Vakresvara Pandit, one of the Lord’s close associates living in Jagannath Puri. [FN. See vol. 1, chapter 16]This is confirmed in the book Vakresvara-carita, where the following passage is found:
There are five branches in the lineage descending from Vakresvara Pandit--those coming from Chandrasekhara, Shankararanya Acharya, Govindananda, Devananda and Gopal Guru, whose qualities are beyond description.
From the book Guru-pranali which is published by the Radhakanta Math, we learn that Gopal Guru Goswami’s identity in Vraja-lila was as the sakhi Manjumedha.
How he got the name Gopal Guru
There is a legend surrounding the addition of the word guru to his name.
There was once a devotee in Puri who was particularly attached to the chanting of the Holy Names. As a matter of fact, the chanting had become automatic for him, so that his tongue muttered the names incessantly. One day Gopal Guru saw this devotee on his way to the toilet, holding his tongue between his fingers because he did not wish to chant the Holy Name while engaged in an impure act. Gopal Guru was just a lad, but he was able to understand why the devotee was doing this and he said to him, “What are you doing? Don’t you know that there are no regulations governing the time and place for chanting the Holy Name? One should chant the Name in all times and circumstances, pure or impure. If you were not able to chant while defecating, how would you be able to have an auspicious death, should death suddenly come upon him at that time?”
Mahaprabhu overheard Gopal sharing this wisdom with the Vaishnava and was very impressed and he announced to all his devotees that Gopal was doing the work of a guru. From that day on, the young Makaradhvaja Pandit was known as Gopal Guru. Because he both preached and practiced, he was factually acting as an acharya or guru.
It did not take long for his fame to spread through the Vaishnava world. Abhiram Thakur had the reputation of being able to verify whether a stone was a real Vishnushila or Shalagrama shila by paying his obeisances to it. If not real, it would crack or turn into dust. Only a pure Vaishnava would be able to tolerate his obeisances, otherwise they could prove fatal. When the Vaishnavas heard that Abhiram Thakur had come to Puri to test Gopal Guru, they were anxious for the boy due to their affection for him. Mahaprabhu realized that everyone was troubled and so he placed his foot on Gopal’s forehead, thus creating the distinctive tilaka marking which is used by those in Gopal Guru’s spiritual lineage. Gopal was still frightened and sat in the Lord’s lap for protection. Thus Abhiram’s obeisances did him no harm.
The service of Radhakanta Deva
Maharaj Prataparudra’s father Purushottam Deva brought several deities back from Kanci with him after defeating that city’s king. Among these deities was the murti of Radhakanta. This deity was first placed in a small temple on the northwestern corner of Jagannath’s Chatrabhoga temple, but later, Prataparudra’s guru Kashi Mishra asked to be given the deity for his personal service. Kashi Mishra had bequeathed everything he possessed to Mahaprabhu as he had no children of his own. Mahaprabhu then gave the service of Radhakanta, his temple and the surrounding gardens, etc., to Gopal Guru. His guru, Vakresvara Pandit, himself never sat on the gadi, i.e., never acted as acharya, at Radhakanta Math. Rather, he stayed absorbed in kirtan and dancing in the company of Mahaprabhu.
The tithi marking Mahaprabhu’s bestowal of Radhakanta’s service on Gopal Guru is celebrated on the Shukla Dvadashi of Magh. On this day, he also gave him the post of first acharya of the Radhakanta Math and the occasion is marked annually by an abhishek of the present-day abbot of the Math.
Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakur has written the following about Gopal Guru Goswami: “Vakresvara Pandit’s disciple Gopal Guru Goswami is currently abbot of Mahaprabhu’s own maöh in the house of Kashi Mishra in Purushottam. He has completely memorized the teachings of Shri Svarupa Damodar Goswami.” (Jaiva Dharma)
Svarupa Damodar’s method of worshiping in the madhura-rasa was spread through the world through two different lines: one through Raghunath Das Goswami which was carried through Krishna Das Kaviraj Goswami, the other through Vakresvara Pandit and Gopal Guru Goswami. Gopal Guru wrote two books on the subject, Smarana-krama-paddhati (“A guidebook to the steps to remembering”) or Seva-smarana-paddhati (“A guidebook to remembering and service”) and Gaura-govindarcana-paddhati (“A guidebook to Gaura-Govinda’s deity worship”).
From the time of Gopal Guru, Kashi Mishra’s house was known as Radhakanta Math. During Kashi Mishra’s lifetime, there was only a single deity of Krishna. From the time of Gopal Guru, a deity of Radha was placed at Radhakanta’s left side and a deity of Lalita on his right. Deities of Gauranga and Nityananda were also installed. The temple buildings were repaired and enlarged during this time, between 1538 and 1548 AD.
In the Orissan language a small separate room situated on temple grounds is given the name gambhira. Bhaktivinoda Thakur has written, “In the customary architecture of a temple in Orissa, the deity room itself has a verandah (alinda) facing it. Facing the verandah is a paved and covered area known as the dalana. A small room within this area is given the name gambhira.” The Gambhira at Kashi Mishra’s house marks the place where Mahaprabhu performed his meditation and where he slept. From the time of Gopal Guru, Mahaprabhu’s wooden shoes and a quilt which was made either by Svarupa Damodar Goswami or Jagadananda Pandit are kept and worshiped in the Gambhira. There is also a waterpot made of clay from the Vraja area which was formerly used by Mahaprabhu. There is also a wooden waterpot which was put there in later times.
From Bhakti-ratnakara we learn that Narottama Das Thakur met Gopal Guru when he visited Puri.
Narottama visited the house of Kashi Mishra where he met Gopal Guru... Gopal Guru became emotional and embraced Narottama Das. (Bhakti-ratnakara 8.382, 389)
Miraculous events at Gopal Guru’s death
A few legends of miraculous events are told about Gopal Guru. When he started to grow old, he turned the responsibility for the Radhakanta Math over to his disciple Dhyanacandra. When Gopal Guru died not long after, his successor was overcome with grief. He took his guru’s body to the Svarga-dvara (“The gate to heaven”) on the seafront. In the meantime, some representatives of a government department blocked off the temple, claiming that the transferal had been done without ministerial sanction. When Dhyanacandra heard that this was going on, he fell at the lotus feet of his guru’s body, tears flowing from his eyes. Though Gopal Guru’s body was on the funeral pyre, the prayers of his dear disciple reached him and he was resuscitated, chanting the Holy Names in sankirtan.
As soon as the government representatives heard of this event, they became fearful and abandoned their effort to take over the temple. Gopal Guru returned to the temple and make a properly legal transfer of ownership to his disciple and disappeared some time later on the Karttik Shukla Navami.
A year after Gopal Guru disappeared, when some devotees who had made the trip to Puri for the Rathayatra returned to Vraja, they were amazed to see Gopal Guru sitting chanting japa under a Pakuria tree in Vamshi-baöa. They sent the message to Dhyanacandra in Puri and he immediately hurried to Vrindavan to see his guru. He fell down at his feet and begged to be allowed to stay in Vraja, even though Gopal Guru told him to go back to Puri and take care of his responsibilities. Finally Gopal told Dhyanacandra, “If you feel such separation from me that you are unable to tolerate it, then have an image of me made out of a neem tree and place it in front of the altar room of the temple and worship it.” This is what was done and the statue of Gopal Guru Goswami is worshiped at the Radhakanta Math to this day.
Gopal Guru Goswami’s sucaka kirtan
The following kirtan is sung on Gopal Guru’s disappearance day.
are mora gopala guru bhakati kalapa taru
makaradhvaja nama janhara |
shri krishna chaitanya janke gopala baliye dake
dekhi shishu caritra udara ||1
gaurangera seva-rase sadai anande bhase
gora binu nahi jane an
tileka na dekhi janre dhairaja dharite nare
gora jena gopalera pran ||2
gopala shishura prati shiksa dila eka riti
prabhu premaveshe dhuli dhuli
kahe sabe are are aji haite gopalere
dakiba gopala guru bali ||3
gopale karuna dekhi sabara sajala ankhi
sukhera samudra uchalila
sabe kahe anupama shri gopala guru nama
prabhu datta jagate vyapila ||4
gopalera guru-bhakti kahite nahika shakti
sadai prasanna vakreshvara
mahamatta nija-gite nahika upama dite
sarva cittakarsha kalevara ||5
dekhila sakala öhani emana dayalu nai
keba na jagate yasha ghoshe
sabe kaila prema-patra ha+ila vancita matra
narahari nija karma doshe ||6
1. O Gopal Guru, you are my devotional desire tree. Your name was previously Makaradhvaja, but Shri Krishna Chaitanya called you Gopal because your behavior as a child reminded him of Gopal Krishna.
2. You were alway absorbed in the joy of serving Gauranga; indeed you knew nothing other than him. You could not tolerate being separated from the Lord for even a moment; it was as if Gora was Gopal’s very life.
3. One day, Gopal taught some devotional practices to a child. The Lord was so ecstatic that he said to everyone, from today on, I will call Gopal, “guru”.
4. Tears filled the devotees’ eyes when they saw how merciful the Lord was to Gopal; it was as though the ocean of joy was overflowing. Everyone said that the name Gopal Guru was extraordinary, and as it was given by the Lord, it soon spread throughout the world.
5. I am incapable of describing Gopal’s devotion to his guru, Vakresvara, who was always satisfied with him. No one can compare to Gopal Guru who was always intoxicated in singing his own devotional songs and whose appearance was attractive to everyone.
6. Everyone recognized that there was no one as merciful as he. Who in the world did not sing his glories? He made everyone worthy of loving ecstasy, only I, Narahari, have been deprived because of my own misdeeds.
Shrinivas Acharya was born in 1530 AD, on the full moon day of the month of Vaishakh, in the village of Cakhandi, which lies just north of Agradvipa in the district of Nadiya. His father, Gangadhara Bhattacharya, was a Brahmin of the Rarha class. The Bhakti-ratnakara describes the event as follows:
When Mahaprabhu took sannyas in Katwa, Gangadhara was overcome with grief and began to cry constantly while calling out the names “Ha Chaitanya! Ha Chaitanya!” When other devotees saw him intoxicated in divine love for Mahaprabhu, they nicknamed him Chaitanya Das, a name which stuck with him for the rest of his life.
Chaitanya Das had no desire for the things of this world, but one day he suddenly felt a strong wish to have a son and told this to his wife, Lakshmipriya. She responded by telling him to immediately go to Puri to ask Mahaprabhu for his blessings. The couple left for Puri, stopping for a few days at the house of Balaram Vipra, Lakshmipriya’s father, in Jajigrama. When they arrived in Puri, Chaitanya Das and his wife paid their obeisances to Mahaprabhu, but before they could speak, the Lord himself said, understanding their desire, “Jagannath Deva will surely fulfill all your desires.”
The other devotees were curious about what desire Mahaprabhu was talking about and they asked his servant Govinda. But before he could say anything, Mahaprabhu called Govinda and gave him the answer: “Chaitanya Das desires to have a son. Indeed his wife will give birth to a jewel of a son, who will be named Shrinivas. He will be the manifest form of my love and will be non-different from me. He will increase everyone’s enthusiasm for devotion. Through Rupa and others I will bring scriptures into the world, and through Shrinivas, I shall distribute them.”
At that time, the Lord called Govinda and said in a deep voice, from a trance state, “The Brahmin has come here, desiring a son. He will soon have one, whom he will name Shrinivas. I will bring scriptures into the world through Shri Rupa and others and these jewel-like books will be distributed by Shrinivas. Shrinivas is the embodiment of pure love for me. All minds will be enthused upon seeing him.” (Bhakti-ratnakara 2.120-3)
Once they had received Mahaprabhu’s blessing, Chaitanya Das and his wife returned to his home and when the auspicious moment came, a son was born to them. Chaitanya Das immediately offered the child to Mahaprabhu.
The child went through the usual rituals of the first feeding of solid food, name-giving, hair-cutting, etc. All the local associates of Mahaprabhu, such as Govinda Ghosh and the residents of Shrikhanda, Narahari and Raghunandan, poured down affectionate blessings on the child.
Early education and travels
Shrinivas Acharya was devoted to his parents. He was fortunate to hear both Mahaprabhu’s divine glories as well as Radha and Krishna’s Vrindavan pastimes from his father. The two of them would go into an ecstatic state as they discussed these transcendental topics. Shrinivas’s mother trained him in kirtan.
He studied grammar, literature and poetic theory from Dhananjaya Vidyavacaspati, and quickly acquired mastery of these subjects. Not long afterward, Shrinivas’s father died. The loss of his devotee father’s association greatly affected Shrinivas, but the other devotees made a concerted effort to console him and his mother in their grief.
Shrinivas took his mother and moved from Cakhandi to his maternal grandfather’s house in Jajigrama, where the villagers were overjoyed to see him. Shortly thereafter, he went to visit Narahari Sarkara in nearby Shrikhanda. From Narahari he learned that Mahaprabhu would shortly be ending his earthly pastimes. This news made Shrinivas determined to see the Lord before it happened. He quickly returned to Jajigrama and took permission from his mother to make the trip to Puri. He then joined the devotees on the annual pilgrimage. It was the fifth day of the waxing moon.
Before arriving in Puri, however, the news arrived that Mahaprabhu had indeed ended his lila. Shrinivas Acharya fainted at the news, and when he came back to consciousness, he decided to commit suicide. However, the Lord himself appeared to him in a dream and told him to complete his journey to Puri. Once in Puri, he again had a dream in which he saw Jagannath, Subhadra and Balaram, as well as Chaitanya Mahaprabhu with his associates. The incarnation of Mahaprabhu’s pleasure potency, Shrila Gadadhara Pandit Goswami met him and both of them were immersed in an ocean of ecstasy. Shrinivas also met Raya Ramananda, Paramananda Puri, Shikhi Mahiti, Sarvabhauma Pandit, Vakresvara Pandit, Govinda, Shankara Pandit, Gopinath Acharya and received blessings from them all.
Shrinivas Acharya stayed for some time in Puri, hearing Shrimad Bhagavatam from Gadadhara Pandit Goswami. Gadadhara then told him to return to Gauda. When Shrinivas returned, he heard that Advaita Acharya and Nityananda Prabhu had also disappeared. Once again he determined to end his life, but the two Prabhus appeared to him in a dream to assuage his grief and had him give up his intention.
When he arrived in Nabadwip, Shrinivas was once again plunged into a morass of sorrow at the loss of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Vamshivadanananda Thakur saw him in this condition and approached Vishnupriya Devi and asked her to grant an audience to Shrinivas and bless him. Shrinivas Acharya was amazed to see the intense renunciation and deep faith of Mahaprabhu’s widow. While in Nabadwip, he had a dream of Sachi Devi and received blessings from her, too. Shrinivas then wandered throughout Bengal, going to all the Shripaöas of the associates of Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu, seeking their blessings. He visited Shantipur, Khardaha, Khanakula Krishnanagara, Shrikhanda, etc., and met Murari Gupta, Shrivasa Pandit, Damodar Pandit, Shuklambar Brahmachari, Gadadhara Das, Paramesvari Das, Jahnava Devi, Vasudha Devi, Virabhadra, Abhiram Thakur, Narahari Sarakara Thakur, Raghunandan Thakur. All these great personalities witnesses Shrinivas’s intense devotion and told him to go to Vrindavan. Shrinivas then went to his mother and asked her repeatedly for permission to make the trip which she could not refuse when she saw his great eagerness.
Shrinivas arrived in Vraja
Shrinivas then travelled through Agradvipa, Katwa, Maureshvara, Ekacakra to Kashi, Ayodhya, and Prayag. He spent a long time travelling and visiting all these holy places before finally arriving in Vraja. There he heard that Rupa Goswami, Sanatan Goswami, Kashishvara Pandit and Raghunath Bhatta Goswami had all disappeared. Raghunath Das Goswami, Gopal Bhatta Goswami and Jiva Goswami were still living, however. Shrinivas met all three of them and received their blessings. He was initiated by Gopal Bhatta and took instruction in the Vaishnava scriptures from Jiva. In great affection for Shrinivas, Jiva commended him to his deities, Radha Damodar. Shrinivas met Raghunath Das and Krishna Das Kaviraj in Radha Kund and received their blessings. One day shri Jiva heard Shrinivas explain a verse from Ujjvala-nilamani and was so impressed by his erudition that he bestowed the title “Acharya” upon him. Jiva also gave the titles “Thakur” to Narottama and “Shyamananda” to Duhkhi Krishna Das. Jiva ordered Shrinivas to tour the sites of pilgrimage in the Vraja area with Raghava Goswami.
The return to Bengal
After Shrinivas had attained mastery of the Gaudiya Vaishnava scriptures, Shri Jiva and the other Vaishnavas in Vraja ordered him, Narottama and Shyamananda to take manuscripts of these invaluable books back to Bengal in an ox-cart. They set off on the Shukla Pancami of Agrahayan month. It was a long and dangerous trip, but they were able to cover the greater part of the distance without any trouble. Upon arriving in the Hindu kingdom of Bana Vishnupura, they felt that the danger was over. However, the rumor had reached the capital of Vishnupura that a rich merchant was travelling to Puri with a valuable cargo of merchandise. The ruler of the kingdom led a gang of highwaymen and when he heard that a cargo of great value was passing through his territory, he asked an astrologer to divine the truth of the rumors. The astrologer confirmed that this was indeed a cargo of great value. The king immediately sent a group of robbers to steal it, specifying that they should kill no one. The robbers first worshiped the goddess Candi, then sent out a spy who returned to tell them that everyone in the group accompanying the oxcart was sleeping in exhaustion after eating their night meal. The robbers thought that this was surely Candi’s mercy that a golden opportunity like this had come their way. They seized the oxcart and the books, thinking that they were gold and jewels, and turned them over to the king.
When Vishnupura’s king saw the large chest, he was delighted at the prospect of finding large amounts of valuables inside. How disappointed he must have been to see nothing but books inside! He turned to the astrologer and asked him how he could have made such a mistake. The astrologer answered, “I can’t understand it. Every time I made my calculations I came up with the same conclusion: this chest is full of priceless jewels! It is incredible, I don’t know why my calculations have gone wrong!”
The mere sight of the holy books had a purifying effect on the king, however, and he regretted having stolen them. Indeed, he desired to meet with the acharya of the books. That night he had a dream in which the Granthacharya appeared to him and this pacified him somewhat.
The next morning, Shrinivas, Narottama and Shyamananda awoke to find the chest of books missing. They searched everywhere, but when they failed to find any clue of the books’ whereabouts, they felt so depressed that they considered killing themselves. Some local villagers saw the distressed condition of the three Vaishnavas and immediately suspected the robber king, Vira Hambira. Shrinivas made some further investigations and was assured that he would be able to find more information from the king himself. The three Vaishnavas felt some hope and abandoned their suicidal intentions. Shrinivas Acharya decided to remain in Vishnupura in the hope of finding the books, but he sent Narottama to Kheöuri and Shyamananda to Orissa.
The conversion of Vira Hambira
While staying in Vishnupura, Shrinivas heard from a Brahmin named Krishnavallabha that Vira Hambira liked to listen to Shrimad Bhagavatam and daily attended classes. On the next day, Shrinivas went with this Brahmin to the hall where the Bhagavat classes were held. The Brahmin introduced Shrinivas to the king as a great Vaishnava, and the king indeed observed the characteristics of a great person in him and was attracted to him. The King expressed a desire to hear Shrinivas speak on the Bhagavat and Shrinivas agreed, thinking that this might be a good opportunity to recover the books. So he started to give lectures on the Bhagavat on a daily basis. The King was enchanted by Shrinivas’s unprecedented explanations of the Bhagavat in his sweet voice. Shrinivas Acharya primarily preached Mahaprabhu’s dharma through speaking on the Bhagavat and kirtan, while Narottama and Shyamananda primarily used the medium of kirtan. The style of kirtan that these three acharyas used were named manohara-sahi, garanahaöi, and reneöi.
Vira Hambira arranged for a secluded dwelling to be given to Shrinivas Acharya. One day, when he had the opportunity to find the king alone in his apartments, Shrinivas recounted the entire story of the journey from Vraja and the theft of the manuscripts. The King immediately confessed, showing great sorrow for his misdeed, and had the chest of books returned to its owner. In great relief, Shrinivas immediately sent messengers to Vrindavan, to Narottama and Shyamananda with the good news. In the course of time, Vira Hambira and his entire entourage all took initiation from Shrinivas and dedicated their entire lives and wealth to him. Vira Hambira’s initiated name was Chaitanya Das.
After staying in Vana Vishnupura for some time, Shrinivas Acharya returned to his maternal grandfather’s house in Jajigrama. Then he set off on another tour of Katwa, Nabadwip and other important towns in Bengal. Shrinivas respected Narahari Sarakara of Shrikhanda greatly and was also very devoted to his saintly mother. When Narahari heard Shrinivas’s mother express her desire to see her son married, he gave him the order to do so. Even prior to receiving this order, Shrinivas had received the same command from Advaita Acharya in a dream. Though he felt somewhat ashamed, he realized that he could not ignore the wishes of Narahari, his mother and Advaita Prabhu. He thus agreed to get married and was wed to Ishvari, the devoted daughter of Gopal Chakravarti of Jajigrama.
It is not always easy to understand the divine activities of Mahaprabhu’s devotees. Only someone who is totally surrendered to the Lord and his devotees can have access to their glories.
Shrinivas’s preaching activities
Shrinivas Acharya started to teach the Goswamis’ books to his disciples in Jajigrama. One of his most important disciples was Ramachandra Kaviraj, the son of Shrikhanda resident Ciranjiva Sena. Shrinivas gave Ramachandra the title kaviraja after hearing his poems. Narottama Thakur had a close friendship with Ramachandra Kaviraj and even wrote about it in one of his songs:
Please be merciful, Prabhu Shrinivas Acharya! Narottama Das begs for the association of Ramachandra.
When Shuklambar Brahmachari, Gadadhara Das, Narahari Sarkara and Dvija Hari Das all ended their earthly activities, Shrinivas Acharya once again felt overcome by grief and made another trip to Vrindavan. Once again he met with Gopal Bhatta and Shri Jiva Goswamis, as well as with Bhugarbha and Lokanatha Goswamis, and these great devotees spoke to him encouragingly, reducing his feelings of loss. Ramachandra Kaviraj and Shyamananda Prabhu also joined Shrinivas in Vraja on this occasion.
When he returned to Gauda, Shrinivas joined in the festivities occasioning the anniversaries of the departure of Gadadhara Das in Katwa, Narahari in Shrikhanda and Dvija Hari Das in Kancanagariiya. From there he went to Budhari village, where Ramachandra Kaviraj and Govinda Kaviraj hosted him with great opulence.
Narottama Das Thakur had also left Vrindavan on Lokanatha Goswami’s orders, returning to his home in Kheöuri. On the full moon day of Phalguna, he established the worship of six sets of deities in the temple there: Gauranga, Vallabhikanta, Vrajamohana, Shri Krishna, Radhakanta, and Radharamana. Shrinivas Acharya performed the installation ceremony and the first puja.
Jahnava Devi was also present at this great event. After the festival, she went on to Vraja with her entourage. Upon her return, she met with Shrinivas Acharya at Katwa and then went with him to spend some time in Jajigrama.
Shrinivas Acharya made another trip to Nabadwip with Narottama and Ramachandra Kaviraj, performing the parikrama of the nine islands, each of which represents one of the limbs of devotional service.
When Raghunandan Thakur entered the nitya-lila, Shrinivas Acharya went to Shrikhanda to help conduct the funeral festival in his honor. He returned with a heavy heart to Jajigrama, and from there went to see his disciples in Vana Vishnupura. He was received by the excited King and the other residents of the town. There, he received an order from Mahaprabhu himself in a dream to accept the hand of Gaurangapriya, the daughter of a certain Raghava Chakravarti. Raghava and his wife Madhavi had been searching for a suitable husband for their daughter with no success. They also received the order in a dream to give their daughter in marriage to Shrinivas. As a result, Shrinivas married for a second time.
The pure devotee has no other objective in life than to fulfill the desires of the Supreme Lord. They are thus ready to do anything if it pleases the Lord. None of their activities has the slightest hint of material desire in it. Shrinivas Acharya is the avesha incarnation of Mahaprabhu himself and his transcendental activities can only be described by someone who has received his special blessings.
Shrila Narottama Das Thakur
parama-bhagavatottamah shrila-narottama-dasa ||
A brahmachari for his entire life, Narottama Das visited all the places of pilgrimage. He was on the highest platform of devotional achievement. (Bhakti-ratnakara 1.256)
Narottama Thakur was Campaka Manjari in Krishna-lila. Eternally assisting Rupa Manjari in her service to Radha and Krishna, Campaka Manjari had mercy on the conditioned souls of this earth and appeared as Narottama in the village of Kheturi, about twelve miles from Rampur Bowaliya in the Gopalpur subdivision of Rajshahi district. This took place on the full moon day of the month of Magh sometime around the middle of the 15th century of the Shaka era.
Narottama was born on the Maghi Purnima. From that day on he thrived and grew like the waxing moon. (Bhakti-ratnakara 1.281)
Narottama’s father was Raja Krishnananda Datta, the zamindar of the Gopalpur area. His mother’s name was Narayani Devi. Raja Krishnananda had a younger brother named Purushottam Datta, who had a son named Santosha. In order to show that his associates can take birth in any caste, Krishna had Narottama take birth in a kayastha family.
From his early childhood, Narottama began to display symptoms of his future greatness. Everyone was amazed to see his great intelligence and his devotional demeanor. He was constantly absorbed in meditation on the wonderful qualities of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu. The Lord and his associates appeared to him in his dreams.
As tears poured from his eyes, Narottama would offer prayers of surrender to Shri Krishna Chaitanya, Nityananda, Advaita and the other associates of the Lord. Finally, the Lord and his associates appeared to him in a dream and consoled him with kind words. (Bhakti-ratnakara 1.285-6)
Mahaprabhu leaves prema behind for Narottama
According to the Premavilasa, when Mahaprabhu passed through Kanair Naöashala, as he was dancing ecstatically in kirtan, he began to call out the name Narottama. When Nityananda asked him why he was calling out this name, Mahaprabhu answered, “My Lord. You do not know your own glories. When we went to Jagannath Puri, you shed tears out of divine love, day after day. I managed to capture your divine love and save it. Now I wish to keep it here by the Padmavati River for Narottama Das.”
Mahaprabhu then went on to the Padmavati River to the place known as Kutubpur, where he bathed and sang and danced in ecstasy. He then called out to the river, “O Padmavati! Take my love and keep it here. When Narottama comes and bathes here, give it to him.”
The Padmavati inquired, “How will I recognize him?”
Mahaprabhu answered, “You will know it is Narottama, for when he enters your waters, you will overflow.”
The place where Mahaprabhu placed prema for Narottama’s sake was later given the name Prematali. When Narottama was twelve years old, he had a dream in which Nityananda Prabhu told him to bathe in the Padmavati and take the prema which had been stored there for him. He went the next day to the Padma and as soon as he put his foot in the water, the river started to overflow. The Padmavati then remembered Mahaprabhu’s words and gave Narottama the prema which she had been safeguarding for him.
Narottama leaves home
As soon as he experienced the ecstasies of prema, Narottama’s character, his appearance, everything about him changed. His parents noticed the transformation and did everything they could to bring him back to his normal state, but failed. Having drunk the wine of divine ecstasy, Narottama had become intoxicated and the bonds of family life could no longer hold him back.
Narottama began to wonder how he could escape from his material entanglements. Finally, one day when his father and uncle were away on official business, he practiced some deception on his mother and tricked his bodyguards so that he could leave his family for Vrindavan. It was the full-moon day of Karttik when this event took place.
According to others, Narottama waited to go to Vrindavan until after the death of his father when his cousin Santosha was given the responsibility for the zamindari. Even though he was the son of a rich zamindar, in his desire to unite with the Lord, he was ready to abandon the pleasures of the body in a moment. Day and night, he cried, walking barefoot, forgetting to eat and to drink until finally he would fall unconscious under a tree. One golden-skinned Brahmin came and offered him a cup of milk and said to him in a sweet voice, “O Narottama, drink this milk. Your cuts and bruises will go away. Take it easy.”
After saying this, the Brahmin vanished and the exhausted Narottama finally fell asleep. That night, he dreamt of Rupa and Sanatan Goswami. The two Goswamis placed their hands on his chest and fed him the milk that Mahaprabhu himself had brought him. All of Narottama’s fatigue disappeared.
Narottama is initiated by Lokanatha Goswami
The Prema-vilasa also describes how Narottama took initiation from Lokanatha Goswami. Narottama was born on Maghi purnima, his renunciation took place on the Karttik purnima, and he was initiated by Lokanatha on the Shravan purnima.
Lokanatha Goswami is considered to be a personal associate of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Indeed, he was the first Gaudiya Vaishnava to be instructed by the Lord to go to Vrindavan, along with Bhugarbha Goswami. Lokanatha set the standard for worship in a spirit of renunciation while in the dham. He was a viviktanandi Vaishnava, i.e., he took pleasure in worshiping the Lord in solitude. In this spirit, he had vowed not to take any disciples. Narottama Das too made a vow -- to take initiation from no one other than Lokanatha. Though he was the son of a raja, Narottama’s desire to receive Lokanatha’s mercy was so great that he went in the middle of every night to clean the place he used as a toilet. He would also leave fine earth and water for him to clean himself afterward. This is described as follows in the Prema-vilasa:
He went to the place where the Goswami performed his bodily functions and did a special job of cleaning it. He sifted the earth to make fine, clean earth with which Lokanatha could clean his hands. He did this as a regular service. He would hide the broom of coconut leaves in the earth and each night take them out to sweep the place, his heart filled with joy. He considered himself fortunate and his body worthwhile. He would hold the broom to his chest, repeating, “This is the power that will help me attain my lord’s lotus feet.” As he said these words, he cried and torrents of tears washed over his chest.
Lokanatha was astonished to see that the place was daily being kept clean. He became curious to to find out who it was and so, one evening, he went and hid in the jungle, chanting japa the entire night in wait for the anonymous benefactor. At midnight, he saw someone engaged in cleaning the place and asked him who he was. When he found out that Narottama, the son of a raja, was doing such a filthy task, he felt embarrassed and told him to desist. Narottama, however, immediately fell at Lokanatha’s feet began to cry. When Lokanatha saw Narottama’s humility and pain, his resolve softened and gave him initiation. Thus Narottama gave an outstanding example to the world of how one should behave in the service of one’s spiritual master.
At that moment, Narottama went there and with great enthusiasm, engaged in the necessary service to his guru. Lokanatha was pleased with his service and initiated him in the mantra, demonstrating the greatest mercy on Narottama. (Bhakti-ratnakara 1.345-6)
Without caring for his youth or his physical beauty, he left home on the full moon day of the month of Karttik. After wandering through many pilgrimage places, he finally came to Vrindavan where he became Lokanatha Goswami’s disciple. On the auspicious day of Shravani purnima, Lokanatha initiated Narottama.
Thus Narottama Das was Lokanatha’s one and only disciple. The founder of the world-wide Gaudiya Maths and the flagship monastery in Mayapur, the Chaitanya Math, Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur, similarly demonstrated a determination and patience in service to his spiritual master in order to convince him to accept him as a disciple. Gaura Kishora Das Babaji, like Lokanatha, had vowed to take no disciples. He refused Shrila Prabhupada three times, but this did not break Prabhupada’s will. When Gaura Kishora saw his humility and intense desire, he finally relented and gave him mantra diksha. Shrila Prabhupada was Gaura Kishora Das’s only disciple.
After the disappearance of Rupa and Sanatan Goswamis, Shri Jiva Goswami became the undisputed intellectual leader of all Gaudiya Vaishnavas throughout Mathura, Bengal and Orissa and the chief-minister of the universal court of Vaishnavas at Vrindavan -- the Vishva-vaishnava-raja-sabha. Shrinivas Acharya, Narottama Das, and Duhkhi Krishna Das all studied the scriptures under Jiva, receiving detailed personal instruction from him. When their studies were completed, Jiva gave them the titles of Acharya, Thakur and Shyamananda, respectively.
Narottama returns to Bengal
After their studies were complete, Jiva sent his three students to Bengal with the Vaishnava scriptures. Shri Jiva heard the news that the books had been stolen in Bana Vishnupura and then later that they had been recovered. This story has been told in this book on pages 165 to 166 in the chapter on Shrinivas.
Lokanatha Goswami considered Narottama’s previous life as a wealthy zamindar to be particularly suitable for preaching in his home area of northern Bengal and thought that with his status he would be able to teach the standards of renounced devotional behavior. Out of compassion for that country’s people, he ordererd Narottama to return to his home town of Kheturi. Shrinivas was aware of Lokanatha’s intention, so when the books were stolen, he told Narottama to continue on his way to Kheturi. Shrinivas Acharya said, “Go quickly to Kheturi and carry out Lokanatha’s orders.” (Bhakti-ratnakara 7.119)
Anchorite devotees (viviktanandis), being absorbed in the intimate service of the Lord on the transcendental platform, normally have no taste for engaging in any welfare activity which brings only temporary succor to materialistic persons, bound by Maya and absorbed in their bodily identification. Materialistic welfare activities are considered to be of great value only when there is a misunderstanding abou the real goal of life--service to Krishna. Lokanatha taught the world through his disciple, on the principle that “a housewife teaches the daughter-in-law by instructing the daughter.” Though Narottama himself was distraught with separation from his spiritual master, he nevertheless took his order seriously and returned to Kheturi where he began preaching the doctrines of pure devotional service to the people of northern Bengal. Narottama revealed his emotional state somewhat in his Prarthana,
aneka duhkhera pare, layechile vraja-pure
kripa-dora galaya bandhiya |
daiva-maya balatkare, khasaiya sei dore
bhavakupe dileka dariya ||
punah yadi kripa kari, e janare keshe dhari
öaniya tulaha vraja-dhame |
tabe se dekhiye bhala, natuba parana gela
kahe dina dasa narottame ||
After a great deal of suffering, you finally dragged me to Vraja-dham, tying the rope of mercy around my neck. But now, the forces of fate and illusion have loosened that rope and thrown me back down the well of material existence.
If you would only be merciful to me and grab me by the hair, pulling me back into Vraja-dham. Then everything will seem right once more, otherwise, Narottama says, his life is over.
On Lokanatha Goswami’s orders, Narottama installed six sets of deities in his temple in Kheturi: Gauranga, Vallabhikanta, Vrajamohana, Shri Krishna, Radhakanta, and Radharamana. The great festival which he held on that occasion is still remembered in the Vaishnava world.
Narottama arrived in Gauda-desha. He had been ordered by Lokanatha to establish the deity service of both Gauranga and Krishna, to serve the Vaishnavas and to preach the congregational chanting of the Holy Names. He immediately dedicated himself to carrying out these orders. First he set about establishing the service of six sets of beautiful deities, whose names, taken together, bring joy to the heart of the devotees:
gauranga vallabhi-kanta shri-krishna vraja-mohana |
radha-ramana he radhe radha-kanta namo’stu te || (Bhakti-ratnakara 1.422-6)
The great festival at Kheturi
Prior to the Kheturi-mahotsava, Narottama Das Thakur travelled throughout Bengal and Orissa, visiting various places where Mahaprabhu had performed his pastimes, meeting the Lord’s associates and receiving their blessings. Amongst the places he visited were Uddharan Datta’s home in Saptagram; Khardaha, where he met Paramesvari Das, and Nityananda’s shaktis, Jahnava and Vasudha; Khanakula Krishnanagara, the home of Abhiram Thakur; Shyamananda’s home in Nrisinghapura; the Shripaöas of Narahari and Raghunandan in Shrikhanda; and the birthplace of Nityananda Prabhu in Ekacakra-dham; Gopinath Acharya’s home, Hari Das Thakur’s samadhi tomb, Gadadhara Pandit’s place of worship, the Jagannath temple and Gundicha, the Jagannath-vallabha gardens, Narendra-sarovara, etc. in Jagannath Puri.
Most of the living associates of Mahaprabhu and other leaders of the sampradaya came to Kheturi on the occasion of the festival organized by Narottama Das. A list of these has been given by Narahari Chakravarti in his books, Bhakti-ratnakara and Narottama-vilasa: Shyamananda Prabhu, Jahnava Devi, Paramesvari Das, Krishna Das Sarkhela (Jahnava’s uncle), Madhava Acharya (Nityananda’s son-in-law), Raghupati Vaidya, Minaketan Rama Das, Murari Chaitanya Das, JnanaDas, Mahidhara, Shri Shankara, Kamalakara Pippalai, Gauranga Das, Nakarii, Krishna Das, Damodar, Balaram Das, Shri Mukunda, Vrindavan Das Thakur; Raghunandan Thakur and other devotees from Shrikhanda; Shripati and Shrinidhi (Shrivasa’s brothers) came from Nabadwip; Advaita’s sons, Achyutananda, Gopal Mishra and Krishna Mishra came from Shantipur; Hriday Chaitanya and other devotees from Ambika Kalna, etc.
Shrinivas Acharya acted as the officiating priest at the festival and performed the rituals installing the deities. In the kirtan led by Narottama which followed, Mahaprabhu and his associates themselves appeared.
Who can describe the joy of that kirtan? Mahaprabhu himself and his associates all became incarnate just like lightning in a conglomeration of rainclouds. (Bhakti-ratnakara 10.571-2)
The kirtan was amazing: you could see Nityananda Prabhu and Advaita Acharya overcome with ecstasy and Gauranga, encircled by the devotees. What wonderful compassion the Lord displayed on that day! Who can understand these wonderful pastimes? What blessings he poured on Narottama and Shrinivas, for they and their companions found the fulfilment of all their desires. (Bhakti-ratnakara 10.605-7)
After the Kheturi festival, Narottama’s fame spread throughout the Vaishnava world. Prominent Brahmins like Ramakrishna Acharya and Ganga-Narayan Chakravarti became his disciples.
Narottama’s preaching adventures
Narahari Chakravarti has described Narottama’s activities extensively in his Narottama-vilasa. One can understand his outstanding feats by reading this book.
In Gopalpura village, there was a Brahmin named Vipra Das. He had a poisonous snake living in his wicker grain-storage bin (gola). When Narottama visited Vipra Das’s house, the snake vanished, and in its place appeared deities of Gaura and Vishnupriya.
Gaurasundara and his beloved Vishnupriya came out of the gola and climbed into Narottama’s lap in plain view of everyone. (Bhakti-ratnakara 10.202)
Everyone was quite amazed. These same deities are today being served in Gambhila.
A certain smarta Brahmin scholar blasphemed Narottama, calling him a shudra. As a result he was attacked by leprosy. He later had a vision of the Goddess in a dream. He went and fell at Narottama Das’s feet and begged him for forgiveness, as she had told him to, and was thus freed from the terrible disease.
Harirama and Ramakrishna, the sons of Shivananda Acharya, were taking a goat and a buffalo to be offered as a sacrifice to the Goddess on the order of their father. They met Narottama and Ramachandra Kaviraj on the way and were attracted by their effulgent beauty. Narottama Thakur advised the two young Brahmins to abandon worship in the modes of passion and ignorance which entailed violence to animals and to worship the Supreme Lord without any desire. The brothers immediately let the goat and buffalo go and bathed in the Padma. They then took initiation from Narottama and dedicated their lives to the service of Lord Krishna and his devotees.
When Shivananda Acharya heard about this, he became angry and called a Smarta scholar from Mithila named Murari to come and defeat Narottama’s Vaishnava philosophy. However, Harirama and Ramakrishna were given divine blessings by their guru and were able to defeat every one of the Smarta’s arguments with scriptural evidence. Defeated, Shivananda Acharya went to pray to the Goddess. She appeared to him that night in a dream and rebuked him for his enmity to the Vaishnavas and told him to cease all such behavior.
In the course of time, Ganga Narayan Chakravarti, Jagannath Acharya and other well-known Brahmins started to become Narottama’s disciples. This caused a stir in the Smarta community and they went to complain to Raja Narasimha: “Narottama is a shudra who makes disciples of Brahmins. He is using some kind of mystic powers or hypnotism to convert them. He should be stopped.”
After discussions with Raja Narasimha, it was decided that a scholar named Rupa Narayan should be summoned to debate Narottama. This Brahmin had won numerous debates of this sort and was known as a digvijayi. The Raja himself set off with Rupa Narayan and a number of other Brahmins toward Kheturi. Ramachandra Kaviraj and Ganga Narayan Chakravarti were upset to see the wicked intentions of the Raja and his pandita. When they heard that the Raja and his entourage were resting overnight in Kumarapura village, they went in disguise as a potter and a pan-seller and set up stalls in the village market. When the Brahmins came through the market, Ramachandra and Ganga Narayan spoke with them in Sanskrit. The Brahmins were astounded that even ordinary stall-keepers in the village were able to speak in Sanskrit. Ramachandra and Ganga Narayan began a debate with the Brahmins, defeating every Smarta argument that they put forward and establishing the pure doctrine of devotional service.
The Raja and his Digvijayi Pandit were rendered speechless by the scholarship of the two ordinary stall-keepers. When they learned that the two men were disciples of Narottama Das, the Raja said to his pandita, “If Narottama’s ordinary disciples can defeat you in debate, there is no need of going to see him.” But once again, the Goddess appeared to Narasimha and Rupa Narayan and ordered them to go to Narottama and pray for forgiveness for their offenses. The two of them did so and became devotees of Radha and Krishna.
Two songs by Narottama
In the Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana, the following comments are found: “Narottama’s ashrama was in a place called Bhajanaöuli, about two miles from his capital city, Kheturi. Narottama did his preaching through kirtan. He created the style of kirtan known as Garanahaöi. He wrote two books, Prarthana and Prema-bhakti-candrika, which are like the very life of the devotees. He has written songs which are appropriate for every devotional mood, and this is what touches the devotees’ hearts. These two books are so popular that they have been published countless times. Narottama’s influence can be appreciated even in distant Manipura. Everyone agrees that the Vaishnava religion spread through Manipura through Narottama’s potency. His devotional songs are sung in every home throughout Manipura state.
Shrinivas Acharya’s disciple Ramachandra Kaviraj was Narottama’s dearest companion. Narottama received news of Ramachandra’s disappearance first; not long afterward he heard of Shrinivas’s disappearance, he wrote the following song in the mood of separation which is capable of melting even a stone-like heart.
je anila prema-dhana karuna pracura |
hena prabhu kotha gela acarya öhakura ||
kahan mora Svarupa rupa, kahan sanatana?
kahan dasa raghunatha patita-pavana?
kahan mora bhaööa-yuga, kahan kaviraja?
eka-kale kotha gela gora naöaraja?
pashane kuöiba matha anale pashiba
gauranga gunera nidhi kotha gele paba ||
se saba sangira sange je kaila vilasa
se sanga na pana kande narottama-dasa ||
Where has Acharya Thakur gone, he who out of great mercy brought the wealth of love as a gift to the world. Where are my Svarupa and Rupa, where is Sanatan? Where has Raghunath Das, the deliverer of the most fallen, gone? Where are Raghunath Bhatta and Gopal Bhatta? Where is Krishnadas Kaviraj? Where has the king of the dance, Gauranga, suddenly disappeared to? I will beat my head against the rocks or enter the flames--but where can I go to find that ocean of virtue, Gauranga? Narottama Das is crying because he is deprived of the association of all those companions of the Lord.
Narottama Das Thakur was the topmost of the followers of Rupa Goswami, Mahaprabhu’s close associate. His devotion to Rupa Goswami can be recognized from the following song:
shri rupa manjari pada sei mora sampada
sei mora bhajana pujana
sei mora prana-dhana sei more abharana
sei mora jivanera jivana
sei mora rasa-nidhi sei mora vancha-siddhi
sei mora vedera dharama
sei vrata, sei tapa sei mora mantra japa
sei mora dharama karama
anukula habe vidhi se pade haibe siddhi
nirakhiba ei dui nayane
se rupa madhuri-rashi prana-kuvalaya-shashi
praphullita habe nishi-dine
tuwa adarshana ahi garale jarala dehi
cira-dina tapita jivana
ha ha prabhu kara daya deha more pada-chaya
narottama laila sharana
Rupa Manjari’s feet are my wealth; they are my worship, they are my ritual. They are what keep me alive, they are my ornament, they are the life of my life.
They are my ocean of nectar, they are the perfection of my desire, they are my Vedic religion. They are my vow, they are my austerity, they are the mantra that I chant on my beads. They are my religious duty.
Fate will be kind to me, and I will find my perfection by attaining her feet and will be able to see with my own eyes the beauty of Radha and Krishna’s form, the moon of the lily of my life.
The snake of your absence has burned up my body with its poison; I have suffered this pain for so long. O my lord, be merciful to me, give me the shade of your feet. Narottama has taken shelter.
Narottamashöaka by Vishvanath Chakravarti
namo namah shrila-narottamaya ||1||
I offer my repeated obeisances to Shrila Narottama Das Thakur, who destroys the darkness of ignorance with the nectarean rays of Krishna’s holy name which emanate from his moon-like face; to him who is the glorious follower of the divine Gauranga.
namo namah shrila-narottamaya ||2||
I offer my repeated obeisances to Shrila Narottama Das Thakur, who lights up every direction with the effulgence of his teeth, revealed as he laughs out of the joy of Harinama-sankirtan; to him who is bathed in torrents of tears and perspiration.
sadyah samudyat-pulakaya tasmai
namo namah shrila-narottamaya ||3||
I offer my repeated obeisances to Shrila Narottama Das Thakur, whose lotus feet dance enchantingly, being set into motion as soon as he hears the sound of the mridanga; whose body is covered with horripilation.
namo namah shrila-narottamaya ||4||
I offer my repeated obeisances to Shrila Narottama Das Thakur, whose dance and song, indeed, every action in kirtan brings shame to the Gandharvas; whose fame has spread through the songs he has written.
yad-darshanam bhagya-bharena tasmai
namo namah shrila-narottamaya ||5||
I offer my repeated obeisances to Shrila Narottama Das Thakur, whose figure is decorated with the dust which covers it as he falls to the ground in an ecstatic faint; who can be seen only by one who has unlimited good fortune.
sthale sthale yasya kripa-prapabhih
krishnanya-trishna jana-samhatinam |
nirmulita eva bhavanti tasmai
namo namah shrila-narottamaya ||6||
I offer my repeated obeisances to Shrila Narottama Das Thakur, who rains down mercy wherever he goes, causing every person’s desires, other than those for service to Krishna, to be uprooted.
sparshah punah sparsha-maniva yasya |
pramanyam evam shrutivad yadiyam
tasmai namah shrila-narottamaya ||7||
I offer my repeated obeisances to Shrila Narottama Das Thakur, whose firm devotion is like a line scratched in a stone, whose touch is like that of the philosopher’s stone and whose every word is as authoritative as that of the Veda.
murtaiva bhaktih kim ayam kim esha
vairagya-saras tanuman nriloke |
sambhavyate yah kritibhih sadaiva
tasmai namah shrila-narottamaya ||8||
I offer my repeated obeisances to Shrila Narottama Das Thakur, who appears to some as devotion itself incarnate, or as the essence of renunciation in human form -- this is forever the opinion of the wise.
bhrityam kritarthayatu mam phaliteshöa-krityam ||9||
May the dancing of Shrila Narottama Das Thakur’s lotus feet, which follows every beat of the drum and hand cymbals and which incarnates the beauty of his intoxication in the songs glorifying Gauranga bring fulfilment to me, his servant, by bringing to fruition all his sacrifices.
Shri Jiva gave both Shrinivas Acharya’s disciple Ramachandra Sena
and his brother Govinda the Kaviraj title.
Shri Shyamananda Prabhu
Shri Shyamananda Prabhu was a servant of a servant of Subala in Krishna-lila. He was the disciple of Hridayananda or Hriday Chaitanya, who was a disciple of Gauri Das Pandit. Gauri Das was Subala in Krishna-lila.
yam loka bhuvi kirtayanti hridayanandasya shishyam priyam
sakhye shri-subalasya yam bhagavatah preshöhanushishyam tatha|
sa shriman rasikendra-mastaka-manish citte mamaharnisham
shri-radhapriya-narma-marmasu rucim sampadayan bhasatam ||
Shri Shyamananda was known in this world as Hridayananda’s dear disciple; he was the grand-disciple of Subala sakha, the most dear friend of the Supreme Lord; he was the crest-jewel of the enjoyers of sacred rapture. May he appear day and night in my mind, bringing an appreciation for the essence of the joys of the beloved of Shri Radha. (Shyamananda-shat.aka)
Shyamananda Prabhu was born on the full moon day of Chaitra in 1456 of the Shaka era (1534 AD) in the town of Dharenda Bahadurpura, which is near the Kharigapura railway station in Medinipura. His father was Shri Krishna Mandal and his mother, Durika. Krishna Mandal’s home town was Dandeshvara which lies on the banks of the Suvarnarekha River. The following statement is found in the Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana: “Shri Krishna Mandal used to live in a place called Ambuwa, near Dandeshvara. He formerly lived in Gauda (the part of Bengal which lies on the banks of the Bhagirathi River) and only later moved to Dandeshvara, is just across the present-day border in Orissa. Shyamananda’s disciples have established five principle seats in the towns of Dharenda, Bahadurapura, Rayani, Gopiballabhapura, and Nrisinghapura.”
Shyamananda Prabhu was born in the Sadgopa subcaste, which fits in the category of jala-cala, i.e., Brahmins are permitted to take water touched by its members. Of course, a Vaishnava is beyond the material qualities and may take birth in a family of any race or caste. If anyone thinks badly of Vaishnavas or judges them on the basis of their race or caste is destined for hell.
arcye shiladhir gurushu naramatir vaishnave jati-buddhir
vishnor va vaishnavanam kali-mala-mathane padatirthe’mbubuddhih|
shrivishnor namni mantre sakala-kalushahe shabda-samanya-buddhir
vishnau sarveshvareshe tad-itara-samadhir yasya va naraki sah ||
Anyone who considers the deity to be nothing but stone,
the guru to be an ordinary human being,
or the Vaishnava to be a member of a particular caste or race,
who takes the holy water which has washed Vishnu or the Vaishnava’s feet and can destroy all the sins of the age of Kali, to be ordinary water,
who thinks that the name or mantra of Vishnu,
which destroys all evils, is the same as any other sound,
or who takes Vishnu to be equal to anything other than him,
has a hellish nature. (Padma-purana)
One who takes birth in a low-class family is not disqualified from performing devotional service, nor is one who born in a pure, high-class brahmanical family automatically qualified for such service. Whoever engages in the worship of the Lord is a great person; one who does not worship is rejected. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.4.66-7)
na me bhaktash caturvedi mad-bhaktah shvapacah priyah |
tasmai deyam tato grahyam sa ca pujyo yatha hy aham ||
Simply being a knower of the four Vedas does not make someone my devotee. An outcaste who is my devotee is dear to me. One should exchange gifts and food, etc., with such a devotee for he is verily as worshipable as I. (Quoted in Haribhaktivilasa.)
Prior to Shyamananda’s birth, his parents had lost several children in childbirth and they vowed to surrender their next child to Vishnu if it survived. Having suffered so much grief in the loss of their previous children, they first named Shyamananda Duhkhi, or “unhappy”, to ward off further distress.
Shyamananda’s parents Durika and Shrikrishna Mandala made their home in Dandeshvara, his. His father was the best of the Sadgopa caste, of impeccable character. Krishna was everything to him and Krishna’s devotees very dear. We cannot describe the virtues of his parents for fear of increasing the volume of this book. They had previously lived in Dharenda and Bahadurapura and some people say that Shyamananda’s birth took place there. Nothing could stop his birth, for he came after many other children had been still-born to his parents. Because of their previous losses, his parents brought him up in sadness and so they called him Duhkhi. (Bhakti-ratnakara 1.351-5, 359)
Shyamananda Prabhu’s parents performed the appropriate rituals when the time came: the first eating of solid food, the cutting of hair, etc. As he grew older, he studied Sanskrit grammar, etc. His parents were overjoyed to see his talents and his religious proclivity. After having carefully listened to the glories of Gauranga and Nityananda from devotees, he was able to repeat them to others. When listening to the activities of Gaura-Nitai or those of Radha and Krishna, tears would flow in waves from his eyes. He also devotedly served his parents and they told him to get initiated so that he could fully commit himself to the service of the Lord. Duhkhi agreed and told them that he wished to take diksha from Hriday Chaitanya, the disciple of Nityananda and Gauranga’s associate, Gauri Das Pandit. When going to Kalna for that purpose, he would also have the good fortune to see the Ganges and to bathe in it His parents happily gave him permission to go there.
When Duhkhi arrived in Ambika Kalna, he threw himslf at the feet of Hriday Chaitanya, who upon learning his identity, happily gave him Krishna-mantra and named him Krishna Das. From then on Duhkhi was known as Duhkhi Krishna Das. Hriday Chaitanya ordered him to go to Vrindavan to engage in bhajana. Though he did not like being separated from his gurudeva, Duhkhi Krishna Das set off for Vraja, first visiting Nabadwip and other places in Gaudamandala where he sought the blessings of the Vaishnavas. Finally, after spending much time on pilgrimage, he finally arrived in Vrindavan where he became completely absorbed in the worship of Radha and Shyamasundar.
In Vrindavan, Duhkhi Krishna Das studied the Vaishnava scriptures under Shri Jiva Goswami, who was the leading scholar of the sampradaya. When Hriday Chaitanya heard of the enthusiasm with which Duhkhi Krishna Das was leading the devotional life in Vraja, he wrote a letter to Jiva Goswami in which he said that Duhkhi should consider Jiva to be an extension of himself. Jiva gave titles to his three most prominent students, Shrinivas, Narottama and Duhkhi Krishna Das, bestowing Shyamananda on the latter. The reasoning behind this name was that he brought great joy to Radha and Shyamasundar.
While in Vrindavan, he was given the name Shyamananda because he brought great joy to Shyamasundar. When Jiva saw his charming activities, he kept him nearby and instructed him in the Vaishnava scriptures. (Bhakti-ratnakara 1.401-2)
Jiva Goswami sent Shrinivas Acharya, Narottama Das Thakur and Shyamananda back to Bengal with the Vaishnava scriptures in 1504 of the Shaka era (1582-3 AD). The idea was to spread the teachings found in these books throughout Bengal and Orissa. The events which took place when Vira Hambira had the books stolen in Vishnupura have been related in the chapter on Shrinivas Acharya.
Narottama went to northern Bengal and Shyamananda went to Orissa. Midnapore district was previously under the rule of the Orissan king. Today there is a branch Gaudiya Math in Midnapore city named the Shyamananda Gaudiya Math which is meant to preserve his holy memory.
Radharani’s special mercy on Shyamananda
Even though Shyamananda Prabhu was Hriday Chaitanya’s initiated disciple, his guru had entrusted him to the care of Jiva Goswami Prabhu. Through the association of Jiva and service to him, Shyamananda developed a taste for serving Radha and Krishna in the conjugal mood. Hriday Chaitanya Prabhu himself was a disciple of Gauri Das Pandit, who was one of the twelve Gopals, Subala sakha. He worshiped Gaura-Nitai in the mood of friendship. Those who think that Shyamananda committed an offense to his initiating spiritual master by abandoning his mood and trying to directly serve Krishna in a higher mood, are wrong. The mood of friendship is contained within the conjugal mood. If a disciple makes further progress in spiritual life it enhances the reputation of his teacher. An extraordinary incident, which took place in Vrindavan prior to his being ordered by Jiva to return to Orissa, demonstrates how dear Shyamananda was to Radharani. One day, Shyamananda Prabhu was sweeping the Rasa-mandala in Vrindavan, absorbed in ecstatic trance. Suddenly, by Radharani’s transcendental mercy, he found her ankle bracelet lying on the ground. In his excitement, he touched the ankle bracelet to his forehead, where it left a mark which is preserved to this day as the tilaka marking of the disciple descendants of Shyamananda. It is known as nupura-tilaka.
Shyamananda Prabhu’s preaching
Narottama Thakur and Shyamananda primarily preached the message of Mahaprabhu through kirtan. Shrinivas sang kirtan in a style called Manohara-sahi, Narottama in Gariana-haöi, and Shyamananda in Reneöi. He would enchant the listeners with his heartfelt singing of kirtan. These styles of kirtan are no longer extant.
As a result of his preaching in Orissa, many Muslims also became Shyamananda’s disciples. The most important of his innumerable disciples was Rasika Murari. Rasikananda was the son of Achyutananda, the zamindar of Rohini village. He had another name, Murari, and was thus most commonly known as Rasika Murari. He was a very powerful preacher and his fame is still widespread through the villages of Orissa. A list of some of Shyamananda’s prominent disciples is given in the Bhakti-ratnakara:
Shyamananda made disciples all over the place. A person can be purified by hearing their names: Radhananda, Purushottam, Manohara, Cintamani, Balabhadra, Jagadishvara, Uddhava, Akrura, Madhuvana, Govinda, Jagannath, Gadadhara, Anandananda, and Radhamohana. Shyamananda was constantly immersed in the joys of kirtan in the association of these disciples. Poets have described his wonderful pastimes for the pleasure of everyone. (Bhakti-ratnakara 15.62-66)
Other than these disciples, Shyamananda converted a yogi named Damodar. Narahari Chakravarti has written the following account of that conversion:
There was a practitioner of yoga named Damodar. Shyamananda mercifully flooded him with devotional rasa. After becoming Shyamananda’s disciple, Damodar cried and chanted the names of Nitai-Chaitanya. Who could remain untouched by his ecstatic absorption. He danced, crying out “bhakti is the best of all!” After delivering Damodar, Shyamananda continued to travel about, distributing the jewel of devotion to all. (Bhakti-ratnakara 15.55-8)
Shyamananda put on a large festival at Dharenda with Rasika Murari and Damodar which is still remembered today. When he left the world, Shyamananda turned over the service of Govinda at Gopivallabhapura. Shyamananda’s disciples and their descendants still worship his deity Radha-Shyamasundar in Vrindavan. This temple is still one of the principle pilgrimage sites in Vrindavan.
Shyamananda Prabhu lived the last part of his life in Nrisinghapura in Orissa where he continued preaching Vaishnavism. His earthly pastimes came to an end on the first day of the waning moon in the month of Asharh in 1552 of the Shaka era (1630 AD).
Shri Ramachandra Kaviraj
svardhunyas tira-bhumau sarajani-nagare gauda-bhupadi-patrad
brahmanyad vishnu-bhaktad api suparicitat shri-ciranjiva-senat |
yah shri-ramendu-nama samajani paramah shri-sunandabhidhayam
so’yam shriman narakhye sa hi kavi-nripatih samyag asid abhinnah||
The king of poets, Ramachandra, was born in the town of Sarajani on the banks of the Ganges as the son of Sunanda and Ciranjiva Sena, a well-known minister of the king of Gauda, a devotee of the Brahmins and Vishnu. Ramachandra was not in any way different from Narottama Das Thakur. (Sangita-madhava-naöaka, quoted at Bhakti-ratnakara 1.270)
Ciranjiva Sena was a resident of Shrikhanda, whose wife’s name was Sunanda. They had two sons, the older was Ramachandra, the younger Govinda. Ramachandra was a disciple of Shrinivas Acharya who took the title Kaviraj. His siddha name was Karuna Manjari. (Verses quoted in Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana.)
After the death of his father, Ramachandra went to live in Kumaranagara with his maternal grandfather, Damodar Kaviraj, who was a disciple of Narahari Sarakara. Later he went to live with his younger brother Govinda Kaviraj in the village of Tiliya Budhuri in Murshidabad district. This place has the distinction of being his Shripaöa.
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur has written that Ramachandra never married, but was a lifelong renunciate. Hari Das Das, on the other hand, writes that Ramachandra did get married, but never lived with his wife. Shrinivas Acharya saw Ramachandra on the very day of his wedding and said a few words to him about the temporary nature of material life, thus awakening within him an indifference to worldly life such that he never took up the duties of householder life. This story has been taken from a book which is not accepted as authoritative by everyone. The following quote is taken from there:
[Shrinivas Acharya said,] “Just look! Out of enthusiasm for this marriage, so much money has been spent just to buy illusory conflict. You don’t know that Maya has placed a noose around your neck and so you enjoy the performance of the auspicious invocations. People celebrate weddings thinking that they are auspicious when they are not, and always think that they have been fulfilled.”
The Kaviraj title
Shrinivas Acharya was overcome with affection for Ramachandra that he gave him the diksha mantra and engaged him as his personal servant. Though Vira Hambira became Shrinivas Acharya’s disciple, Ramachandra acted as his shiksha-guru. Ramachandra also visited Vrindavan where he associated with Jiva Goswami and the other Vaishnavas, receiving their blessings. They were very pleased to hear his poetry, so much so that Jiva Goswami gave him the Kaviraj title. He was thus one of the eight Kavirajs (Ashöa-kaviraja). He was Narottama Thakur’s favored companion in spiritual association and preaching.
Paramananda Bhattacharya, an ocean of love, Jiva Goswami and the other residents of Vraja, listened to Ramachandra recite his own poetic compositions and they joyfully awarded him the title of kaviraja. Ramachandra Kaviraj is full of all virtues and is the second self of Narottama Das. (Bhakti-ratnakara 1.267-9)
Kamsari Sena, Rama Sena, Ramachandra Kaviraj, and the three Kavirajs: Govinda, Shriranga and Mukunda [are branches of Nityananda]. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.11.51)
His writings include Smarana-camatkara, Smarana-darpana, Siddhanta-candrika, and Shrinivas Acaryera Jivana-carita.
Ramachandra in Vrindavan
All who saw Ramachandra Kaviraj were attracted by his physical beauty. Narahari Chakravarti has written an extensive description of him in the ninth wave of his Bhakti-ratnakara. Ramachandra Kaviraj’s transformations when he visited the Radha Damodar temple with Jiva Goswami and saw Rupa Goswami’s samadhi are amazing. Gopal Bhatta Goswami, Lokanatha Goswami and Bhugarbha Goswami all blessed him. He went to bathe in Radhakunda and Shyamakunda and met Raghunath Das Goswami there. When he payed obeisances to Raghunath, the venerable saint affectionately embraced him.
yau shashvad-bhagavat-parayana-parau samsara-parayanau
samyak satvata-tantra-vada-paramau nihshesha-siddhantagau |
anyonya-priyatabharena yugali-bhutav imau tau numah ||
I pay my obeisances to Narottama and Ramachandra who are devoted to all those who have dedicated their lives to the Supreme Lord, who help people to cross over the ocean of material life, who know all the scriptures completely and have understood all the transcendental doctrines, who are the most generous with the distribution of bhakti-rasa and who win the hearts of the atheists, who are constantly attached to each others affectionate company. (Sangita-madhava-naöaka, quoted at Bhakti-ratnakara 1.277)
In his Prarthana, Narottama Das prays for the association of Ramachandra Kaviraj.
daya kara shri-acarya prabhu shrinivasa |
ramacandra sanga mage narottama dasa ||
Please be merciful, Prabhu Shrinivas Acharya! Narottama Das begs for Ramachandra’s association.
Ramachandra’s disappearance day is the Krishna tritiya of Magh month. He passed away in Vrindavan after the disappearance of Shrinivas Acharya.
Shrila Rasikananda Deva Goswami
Rasikananda Deva Goswami was born in 1512 of the Shaka era (1590 AD) in the village of Rohini or Rayani in the Medinipura district. This village is situated at the confluence of the Suvarnarekha and Dolanga rivers. His father’s name was Raja Achyutananda and his mother, Bhavani Devi. The Suvarnarekha River crosses back and forth across the present-day Bengal-Orissa border. Medinipura district used to be a part of the Orissan kingdom. Raja Achyutananda was an Orissan of the Karana caste, the equivalent of the Kayasthas in Bengal. A Vaishnava is beyond the material qualities and should not be judged in terms of his caste origins. Achyutananda and Rasikananda were born in the Karana caste in order to bless it.
Rasikananda was the son of an important zamindar. We can assume that he was a manjari in Krishna-lila. His guru Shyamananda had himself been initiated by Hriday Chaitanya Goswami who worshiped the Lord in the friendly mood. However, due to the association of the Vraja devotees led by Jiva Goswami, he took shelter of the conjugal mood. Shyamananda thus initiated Rasikananda into the worship of Radha and Krishna.
Rasikananda was also known by the name Rasika Murari. Mother Jahnava’s disciple Nityananda Das wrote in his Prema-vilasa that Shyamananda had two principle disciples, one named Rasikananda, the other Murari, both of whom lived in Rayani. But Narahari Chakravarti indicates clearly in Bhakti-ratnakara that both names refer to the same individual:
In the village of Rayani lives the famous son of Achyutananda. He had two names: Rasikananda and Murari. Thus he was also known as Rasika-Murari. From his early childhood, he was learned in the scriptures. (Bhakti-ratnakara 15.27-8)
From the Bhakti-ratnakara, we learn that when exiled from Ayodhya, the son of Dasharatha Lord Ramachandra stayed for some time with Lakshmana and Sita in the village of Barajita, not far from Rayani. He there established the Shiva linga named Rameshvara. The zamindar of this are was Achyuta. He took good care of his subjects and was a strict follower of religious principles. His wife was also well-known as a faithful and loyal wife. Rasika Murari learned to serve his parents in an expert way, bringing them much satisfaction. Bhakti-ratnakara also notes that he had a devoted wife name Icchamayi Devi or Icchadei, who was from village of Ghanöashila on the banks of the Suvarnarekha. This village also has a certain historical renown as a place where the Pandavas stayed during their exile. It was in this village that Rasika Murari first met his guru, an event which has been elaborately described in the Bhakti-ratnakara.
Rasika Murari meets Shyamananda Prabhu
One day, Rasika Murari was meditating in a solitary place, anxious to find a spiritual master who could give him spiritual direction. He had entered into a very deep meditation when he heard a disembodied voice say, <Murari! You need be anxious no longer. Your guru is Shyamananda and you will meet him here very shortly. Take shelter of him and your life will be successful.>
Upon hearing this divine message, Murari began chanting the name of Shyamananda on his beads with joyful enthusiasm. He spent the entire night crying out of his desire to meet his guru, until finally at the end of the night, he had a dream vision of Shyamananda Prabhu who said to him, “Don’t worry any longer, for you will meet me this very day.”
At dawn, Rasika Murari was on the lookout for his guru when he saw the tall figure of Shyamananda approaching him, as effulgent as the sun. Surrounded by his disciples like Kishora Das, he was dancing in a state of absorption in divine love while chanting the names of Nityananda and Chaitanya. Having waited anxiously for so long to encounter his guru, Rasika Murari immediately fell down at his feet. Shyamanada affectionately lifted him up and embraced him. Then, after giving him the Radha-Krishna mantra, he offered him up to Chaitanya and Nityananda Prabhus. This whole story reveals how one can find one’s guru through sincere prayers.
Rasikananda becomes a potent preacher
Rasikananda Deva Goswami served his guru, fully committing himself in body, mind and soul. So much so that in a short time he was recognized as Shyamananda’s chief disciple and a very powerful preacher and initiating guru himself. In fact, it is a truism that a good disciple becomes a good teacher. A spiritual master may have innumerable disciples in name only who call him their guru, but only a true disciple who has dedicated himself completely to his spiritual master is imbued with all the powers of the guru. With the spiritual powers invested in him by his guru, Rasikananda was able to convert many criminals, atheists, Muslims, and other fallen spirit souls to the path of devotion, bestowing the jewel of prema upon them all.
On one occasion, a wicked Muslim tried to silence Rasika Murari by having him attacked by an intoxicated elephant, but Rasikananda was able to transform even the elephant into a disciple and engage him in the service of Vishnu and the Vaishnavas. All who witnessed this amazing event were overwhelmed with astonishment at Rasika Murari’s spiritual power.
Shyamananda turned the seva of his personal Govinda deity in Gopivallabhapura over to Rasikananda.
He [Shyamananda] brought down a rainstorm of ecstatic love on Gopivallabhapura. Then he bestowed the service of Govindadeva on Rasikananda. News of Rasikananda’s spiritual potency spread far and wide as he saved many atheists and criminals through his blessings. He mercifully gave the treasure of devotion to Muslims as he wandered from village to village with his disciples. He made a disciple of the elephant sent by an evil man, engaging him in the service of Krishna and the Vaishnavas. The evil Muslim zamindar then came and surrendered to him. He delivered unlimited living beings without any consideration of their caste background. Rasikananda remained constantly intoxicated in Harinama sankirtan. Who will not be overcome with emotion on reciting his virtues? (Bhakti-ratnakara 15.81-6)
The Prema-vilasa also says in the 19th chapter, “He delivered many criminals and Muslims.”
The Raja of Mayurbhanj, Vaidyanatha Bhanj, in Orissa was also attracted to the transcendental power of Rasikananda and became his disciple. Other important disciples were Ganapati, the zamindar of Paöashapura in Medinipura; Shri Bhima and Shrikara, the zamindars of Dharenda; Ahammad Beg, the son-in-law of the governor of Orissa, Ibrahim Khan.
Rasikananda Deva Goswami wrote a number of works, including Shyamananda-shataka, Bhakta-Bhagavatashöaka, and Kunjakeli-dvadashaka.
The great Dharenda festival organized by Shyamananda with the participation of Rasika Murari, Damodar and others is remembered to this day by their descendants.
It is said that just prior to Rasikananda’s disappearance in AD 1652, he went to a village named Vamshadaha near Jaleshvara with seven disciples. Mahaprabhu passed through this village when travelling to Puri with Nityananda (Chaitanya Bhagavat 3.2.263-4)
They walked from there to Remuna, chanting kirtan the whole way, arriving in the courtyard of the Gopinath temple. Suddenly Rasikananda merged into the body of the Gopinath deity. His disciples also left their bodies in the same place. Rasika Murari’s flower samadhi and those of his seven associates are still maintained in the courtyard of the Kshiracora Gopinath temple.
An annual festival lasting twelve days is held in Remuna to celebrate his disappearance. This takes place on the Shiva-caturdashi in the month of Magh.
Vishvambharananda Deva Goswami, the author of the celebrated Astikya-darshana, was Rasikananda’s descendant.
Shri Ganga Mata Goswamini
Hari Das Pandit Goswami
Ganga Mata Goswamini was initiated in the line of Gauranga's shakti, Shrila Gadadhara Pandit Goswami, by Hari Das Pandit Goswami. Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami himself has described this Hari Das’s character in his Chaitanya Charitamrita:
The chief servitor of the Govinda temple was Shri Hari Das Pandit. His qualities and fame are known all over the world; he was gentle, tolerant, peaceful, magnanimous, grave, sweet in his words, and very sober in his endeavors. He was respectful to everyone and worked for the benefit of all. Diplomacy, envy and jealousy were unknown to his heart. The fifty general qualities of Lord Krishna were all present in his body... Ananta Acharya, a disciple of Gadadhara Pandit, was always absorbed in love of Godhead, magnanimous and advanced in all respects. He was a reservoir of all good qualities. No one can estimate how great he was. Pandit Hari Das was his beloved disciple. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.8.54-7, 59-60)
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur writes in his Anubhashya: “During the advent of Lord Shri Krishna, Ananta Acharya was Sudevi, one of the eight gopis. This is stated in the Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika, verse 165, as follows: ‘Ananta Acharya Goswami was formerly Sudevi-gopi in Vraja [Vrindavan].’ According to the disciplic succession descending from him at the famous Ganga-mata monastery, he is known as Vinoda manjari. One of his disciples was Hari Das Pandit Goswami, who is also known as Shri Raghu Gopal and as Shri Rasa manjari. He had two important disciples: Lakshmipriya and her niece, Ganga-mata, daughter of the Raja of Punöiya.”
More is learned about Ganga-mata's holy life from Hari Das Das's Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana and, in more detail, from Sundarananda Vidyavinoda's Shrikshetra, where an elaborate account is given.
Sachi Devi goes to live in Vraja
Ganga Mata Goswamini's original name was Sachi Devi. She was born in Puntiya which is in the Rajashahi district of present-day Bangla Desh. Her father was an important zamindar or raja, whose name was Naresha Narayan. From her early childhood, Sachi Devi was indifferent to family life and devoted to Krishna. Her parents saw this and wanted to see her married as soon as possible, but Sachi told them that she refused to accept any mortal as her husband. When she announced her determination to remain unmarried in this way, her parents were troubled but could do nothing to change her mind. When her mother died, Sachi Devi left home and set out on a pilgrimage which led her first to Puri and then to Vrindavan.
Upon her arrival in Vrindavan Dhama, she met Hari Das Pandit Goswami and felt as though making contact with him had made her entire pilgrimage worthwhile. She became anxious to take initiation from him, but he hesitated at first because of her wealthy family background. Later, however, when he saw her asceticism and her unswerving determination to engage in pure devotional activity, he gave her initiation in the eighteen-syllabled mantra. This event took place in the Govindaji temple on the Chaitra Shukla Ekadashi.
After having received these blessings from her guru, she began to engage in intense bhajana, subsisting through madhukari, i.e., by begging from door to door for morsels of bread. After a year of this intense devotional activity, she was told by her spiritual master to live in Radha Kund with her spiritually advanced aunt and god-sister, Lakshmipriya, who regularly chanted three lakhs of Names every day. As a part of their regular spiritual practice, the two of them daily circumambulated Govardhana.
After several years of such practice at Radha Kund, when Sachi had become very advanced in her devotional life, her guru sent her to Purushottam Kshetra to recover the home of Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya, which had fallen into disrepair. Taking the command of her spiritual master as her all in all, Sachi Devi came to Jagannath Puri and took the kshetra-sannyasa vow. At that time, all that remained of Sarvabhauma's house was a single run-down building which housed his Damodar Shalagrama-shila.
Even while she had lived at home in Punöiya, Sachi Devi had studied the scriptures. In Vrindavan, furthermore, she had thoroughly studied the Bhagavata Purana. In order to salvage Sarvabhauma's residence, she set out to preach. Her explanations of the Bhagavat and her transcendental qualities made such an impression on the public that her discourses soon attracted large audiences. It did not take long before her fame had spread so widely that the king of Orissa himself, Mukunda Deva, came to listen to her Bhagavat lectures. He too became a devoted follower after being impressed by her learning and her devotional qualities.
According to the Utkala-khanda, there was a King Shveta in the Treta Yuga who was a devotee of Jagannath. He made arrangements for Jagannath's bhoga just as Indradyumna had done. One morning he came to the temple and saw the offerings which were made by the gods--thousands and thousands of wonderful gifts which were beyond the power of any mortal to present to the Lord. Shveta became disturbed at the insignificance of his own offerings and stood at the temple door, his head hung in shame. As he was meditating on his own insignificance, he had a vision in which he saw Lakshmi Devi herself taking his food offerings and feeding them to both sets of Jagannath deities [FN: Besides the main deities, there is a second set, known as the vijaya-vigraha.] who were eating them with great enthusiasm. The King immediately thought himself consummated by this vision and he continued to serve Jagannath with unflagging enthusiasm. Jagannath eventually granted him the boon of being liberated in a spot which faces Matsya Madhava, halfway between Akshaya Baöa and the ocean, which was subsequently named Shveta Madhava in his honor. The tank excavated here was also named Shvetaganga. On the banks of this tank, deities of Shveta Madhava, Matsya Madhava and the nine planets are still worshiped.
One night, the king of Orissa, Mukunda Deva, had a dream in which Jagannath Deva appeared to him and told him to give Sachi Devi a tract of land which bordered this Shveta-ganga. The next morning, the King joyfully came to see Sachi Devi and told her about the dream. Though she had no interest in increasing her worldly possessions, Sachi Devi decided to accept the King's gift for the sake of her guru-given mission to improve the condition of Sarvabhauma's house. Prior to that she had had to beg for the wherewithal to serve the deities. Wherever there is true devotion to the Lord, the trouble which one has to take to serve him is not seen as trouble, but rather as an opportunity and a source of joy.
How Sachi came to be known as Gangamata
Not long afterward, a miraculous occurrence took place. One Krishna Trayodashi, an opportune moment came for the Maha Varuni Ganges bath. Many people who seek to accumulate pious credits make the trip to the Ganges for this auspicious occasion. Indeed, many of Sachi Devi's friends asked her to accompany them, but she could not abandon her kshetra-sannyasa vows nor her service to the deities, so she was obliged to plead that it was impossible for her to go.
Even though she did not really want to go, Jagannath Deva himself made arrangements for her to bathe in the Ganges. That night he appeared to her in a dream and told her to take bath in the Shvetaganga in the middle of the night. Sachi Devi followed his instructions, but as soon as she entered the water, she had a vision of Ganga Devi herself. She was carried away in a strong river current which came from nowhere and suddenly found herself inside the Jagannath temple. But she continued to see herself bathing in the midst of her friends from Puri. She not only saw the Ganges and all those who were immersed in its waters, but she could hear the joyful noise of the bathing crowds.
And she was not the only one. The temple gatekeepers awakened on hearing this hubbub and called Lord Jagannath's pujaris. They in turn gave a report to the King himself who ordered them to open the temple doors. When they finally flung the doors open, they saw no one but Sachi Devi standing there alone. Jagannath's pujaris were confused and at first did not know what to do. They assumed that Sachi Devi had broken into the temple with the intention of robbing the Deities' valuables and that they had caught her red-handed. But by their suspicions they committed an offense to a great devotee. As a result, they were attacked by various diseases and distresses--so much so that the service to Jagannath was affected.
Jagannath Deva finally appeared to the King again and told him what had really happened. Being influenced by Sachi Devi's pure devotional attitude, Jagannath himself had made the Ganges flow from his feet to bathe Sachi Devi directly in the currents of his caranamrita. The King and the other servants of the Lord could only be freed from their offenses if they apologized to Sachi Devi and took initiation from her.
King Mukunda Deva went to Sachi Devi with his entourage, the temple guards and servants. They paid her their prostrated obeisances and begged for her forgiveness. Though the King and all the pujaris, etc., asked her for initiation, she only gave the mantra to the King in obedience to Jagannath's order. The King wanted to give a large amount of land as guru-dakshina, but Sachi Devi refused it. When the King continued to beg for an opportunity to render service, she finally said that every midday he could send two containers of mahaprasadi rice and one of vegetables, a cloth and 160 paisa for the service of the Vaishnavas. From that day onward, Sachi was known as Ganga-mata and Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya's house as Ganga-mata Math and to this day, after the midday offering at the Jagannath temple, these same items are sent to the Ganga-mata Math.
Another of those who were blessed by initiation from Ganga Mata Goswamini was a certain Smarta Brahmin named Mahiratha Sharma from Dhananjayapura.
There was a deity of Krishna named Rasika Raya in the house of Candra Sharma, a resident of Jaipur in Rajasthan. As a result of sevaparadha, offenses in the performance of service to this deity, this Brahmin had no descendants to continue the family line. Jagannath Deva appeared to him in a dream and told him to bring the deity to Puri and to give it to Ganga-mata if he wished to be rid of the effects of his offenses. The Brahmin did as he was told and appeared at Ganga-mata's door to offer her the service of Rasika Raya. At first she was not ready to accept, as it was impossible for her to give the kind of royal service which was due such a deity. Finally, the Brahmin simply hid the deity amongst the tulasi bushes and went away. Rasika Raya appeared to Ganga-mata in a dream and told her that he wanted her to accept and serve him. Having been so ordered, Ganga-mata joyfully took the deity in and organized a festival in his honor.
At present there are five pairs of deities in the Ganga-mata Math: Shri Shri Radha Rasika Raya, Shri Shri Radha Shyamasundar, Shri Shri Radha Madanamohana, Shri Shri Radhavinoda and Shri Shri Radharamana. Other than these, the Damodar Shalagrama-shila of Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya, a dancing figures of Gauranga and a Gopal deity are also present on the altar there.
According to the information given by the Math, Gangamata was born on the Shukla-dashami of Jyestha in AD 1601 and entered the eternal pastimes in AD 1721. Branches of her Math are found in Jagannath Puri at the Haveli Math and Gopal Math, as well as the Gopal Math in Cuttack district's Tangi village.
Devotees of Krishna may be born in any race, in any caste, or indeed in either sex. They are still to be considered the best of human beings and worshipable by all. There are many examples of women who attained the supreme achievement of pure devotional service to the Lord, such as the wives of the Vedic Brahmins who due to the demands of bhakti ignored the orders of their less-advanced husbands to serve Krishna. In the Kaliyuga, also, as a result of the blessings of Hari Das Thakur, a prostitute was transformed into a renowned Vaishnavi and many great devotees went to seek audiences from her in order to receive her saintly association.
Shrila Vishvanath Chakravarti Thakur
vishvasya natha-rupo’sau bhakti-vartma-pradarshanat |
bhakta-cakre vartitatvat cakravarty-akhyayabhavat ||
Because he revealed the path of devotion, he is considered to be identical with the Lord of the Universe, Vishvanath; and because he was predominant in the circle of Vaishnavas, he held the title Chakravarti.