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Shri Visvanatha Cakravarti
[The following article appeared in the monthly Bengali magazine “Gaudiya”, 18th volume, number 18, dated 8 Pausha, Bengali year 1329 (1922 A.D.). The magazine was founded and edited by His Divine Grace Shri Shrimad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura.]
The names of all the Vrajvasi Gosvamis who were living during the time of Shri Mahaprabhu are very well known. Later, after their disappearance, the flow of pure devotion for the Lord took shelter of the three famous Prabhus—Shrinivasa Acarya, Thakura Narottama, and Syamananda Parbhu—and surged on with full force. In the disciplic succession coming from Thakura Narottama, Shri Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura appeared in the fourth position.
The story of Shri Visvanatha Cakravarti is more or less know only among the Gaudiya Vaishnavas. They speak of the outstanding excellence of achievement demonstrated by Shrila Cakravarti Thakura in his examination of the Shrimad Bhagavat and the Bhagavad Gita, as well as his complete understanding of the opinions expressed by the Gosvamis in their own books. Our Thakura is the protector, guardian and acarya of the middle period of Gaudiya Vaishnava dharma’s historical developement.
Nowadays amongst the Vaishnavas, there is the following saying in relation to Cakravarti Thakura’s three most famous books:
“kirana bindu kana, e tin niye vaishnava pana”
“These three books, Ujjvala-Nilamani-Kirana, Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu-bindhu, and Bhagavatamrta-kana, are taken and used by the Vaishnavas as their wealth.”
In this connection, we also hear the following verse sung everywhere:
visvasya natha-ripo ‘sau
cakravarty akhyaya bhavat
“Because he has shown the visva-vasis (residents of the material universe) the path of bhakti, he is called ‘Visvanatha’; and because he is situated amongst the cakra (circle) of devotees, he is called ‘Cakravarti’.”
Shrila Cakravarti Thakura Defends Shri Narottama’s True Position
Previously, Shrila Narottama Thakura Mahasaya had achieved fame as Rasika-raja, or The King of those devotees who know how to relish the mellows of the topmost madhura-rasa. And he certaintly is that. However, certain persons who are envious of Lord Hari—who are loyal servants of that energy which compleetely surrounds the fallen souls with strict difficulties—have dared to attempt to forcibly throw such a wonderful, true rasika as Narottama into their own well of material rasa . Needless to say, they have not been successful. Being unable to understand the purely spiritual activities of Shri Narottama Thakura, many prakrta-sahajiyas had given him the title “Sahajiya-kula-bhusana” (the ornament of the family of cheap imitators). Therefore, Shrila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura appeared in tme to check the spread of this concocted sahajiya mentality, and to truly defend the factual spiritual rank of Shrila Thakura Mahasaya.
Visvanatha’s Family Lineage, Birth & Studies
Shrila Visvanatha took birth in a family of brahmanas found in the Radha-desa area of Nadia District, West Bengal (Radha-sreniya-vipra-kula ). According to some, he also used the pen name ‘Hari-vallabha’. He had two older brothers named Ramabhadra and Raghunatha, and he stayed in Deva-grama during his childhood. Upon the completion of his studies in vyakarana (Sanskrit grammar), he moved to Saiyadabad-grama Murasidabad District, where he studied the bhakti-sastras (literatures of devotion) in the home of his guru Shri Radha-ramana Cakravarti. This Radha-ramana was the disciple of Shri Krishna-carana Cakravarti, who was in turn the disciple of Shri Ganga-narayana Cakravarti (one of the chief disciples of Thakura Narottama.) Shrila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura later composed Sanskrit prayers describing this disciplic succession—Shri Gurudevastika, Shri Parama-gurudevastika, Shri Pratapara-gurudevastika, and Shri Parama-parat-gurudevastika. All these stotrascan be found, along with many other compositions, in his book named Shri Stavamrta-lahari (Waves of Nectarean Prayers).
His Residence in Shri Vraja Mandal
By the mercy of his spiritual master, Shrila Visvanatha Cakravarty Thakura lived in many different places within Vraja-dhama, and composed various transcendental literatures there. Most of these books are very difficult to find nowadays; however a few of them are well known, and are considered to be the supremely honorable wealth of the Gaudiya Vaishnavas.
Sometimes Shrila Cakravarty Thakura lived at Shri Govardhana, sometimes on the bank of Shri Radha-kunda, sometimes at Shri Yavata and sometimes in Shri Vrindavana within the compound of Shri Gokulananda’s temple. His movements here and there are made very clear by the statements found at the end of his books.
The Date of His Birth
In Attempting to ascertain the time of Cakravarty Thakura, we see that he states at the end of Shri Krishna-Bhavanamrta that this book was completed on the full moon day of the month of Phalguna, 1607 Saka (1685 A.D.). This was the day commemorating the auspicious appearance of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu on the full moon in February-March. Additionally, in his commentary of the Shrimad Bhagavatam named saratha-darsini, we see that this tika was written during the month of Magha, 1626 Saka (1704 A.D.). Therefore, estimating that his time of birth was approximately 1560 Saka (1638 A.D.), and determining his time of death as 1630 Saka (1708 A.D.), we can calculate that he was present in this world for 70 years.
His Disciplic Succession
Shri Ganga-narayana Cakravarti was a disciple of Shrila Narottama Thakura Mahasaya, and a resident of Balucara Gambila (the place of Narottama’s disappearance). By the Lords desire, he had no sons; however, he had one daughter named Vishnu-priya. Shrila Thakura Mahasaya also had a famous disciple known as Shri Rama-krishna Bhattacarya (a Barendra-sreniya-brahmana). The youngest son of this Bhattacarya was named Shri Krishna-carana, who was accepted by Shri Ganga-narayana as his own son (since he had none of his own.) This Krishna-carana is the parama-guru, or grand spiritual master of Shrila Cakravarti Thakura. In Visvanatha’s Bhagavatam commentary named Sarartha-darsini, at the beginning of the famous Rasa-pancadhyayi (five chapters describing Lord Shri Krishna’s rasa-lila dance), we find the following verse:
shri rama krishna ganga caran natva gurun uru premnah
shrila narottama natha shri gauranga prabhum naumi
“Having bowed down while absorbed in the most exalted divine love at the feetof all my gurus in disciplic succession—Shri Radha-ramana Cakravarti, Shri Krishna-carana Cakravarty, Shri Ganga-narayana Cakravarty, Shri Narottama Thakura and Shri Lokanath Gosvami—I now offer my respectful obeisances unto my Lord Shri Gauranga Mahaprabhu.”
We understand from this sloka that Shri Radha-ramana’s abbreviated name is ‘Shri Rama’, and that Shri Krishna-carans’s abbreviated name is ‘Krishna’. The word ‘natha’ is understood to mean Shri Lokanatha Gosvami.
Refuting the Faulty Conclusions of Rupa Kaviraja
Shrinivasa Acarya’s famous daughter, Shrimati Hamalata Thakurani, rejected an envious disciple named Shri Rupa Kaviraja from the Viasnava society. This Rupa Kaviraja is counted amongst the sub-branch of the Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaya known as atibadi. He spread his own concocted philosophy (counter to the Gaudiya tradition) that only a person in the renounced order of life is capable of acting as acarya. He claimed that it was not possible for a householder to become a spiitual master. Fully disregarding the vidhi-marga, or path of devotional rules and regulations, he also tried to preach a philisophical path of raga-marga, or spontaneous devotion, which was completely unregulated and undisciplined. He also preached that smarana (remembrance) was possible without the help of sravana and kirtana (hearing and chanting.) Thus, this Rupa Kaviraja propogated a path which was unavorable to the path shown by the Gosvamis. Therefore, Shrila Cakravarti Thakura has refuted all these false conclusions in his sarartha-darshini commentary on the 3rd canto of Shrimad bhagavatam. Actually, this refutation is a rendering of the truths outlined in Shrila Jiva Gosvami’s Bhakti Sandarbha.
Refuting the Caste Gosvamis
The later descendants of Shri Rupa Kaviraja, as well as the descendants of Shri Nityananda Prabhu’s son Shri Virabhadra and the descendants of Shri Advaita Acarya’s rejected sons all gave the title “Gosvami” to their disciples, even if they are householders. In preaching his refutation of this bogus practice, Shrila Cakravarti Thakura has stated, citing scriptural evidence, that such a title of “Gosvami” is not at all improper for a befitting offspring of an acarya. However, it is highly improper to simply tack the word “Gosvami” onto the ends of names of offspring who are born in unfit families, eventhough descendants of an acarya—especially when there is a motive of greed for increasing wealth and followers. For this reason, even one conducting the activities of an acarya should never use the title “Gosvami”. Shrila Cakravarti Thakura maintains that such foolish persons, who are bereft of proper behavior—are so ignorant that they are not even fit to be seen.
The Gaudiya Sampradaya’s Conquest at Jaipur
During the time of Shrila Cakravarti Thakura, the offspring of acaryas were signing the title “Gosvami” next to their own names, thereby displaying their foolish ignorance. Being envious of the Lord and averse to the scriptures, they were very proud to announce the name of their vamsa-parampara (family lineage). At that time, at Shri Govindadeva’s temple at Gulta-grama (just outside Jaipur), the acaryas of the Shri Ramanuja-sampradaya issued a challenge against the Gaudiya Vaishnavas. The King of Jaipur consequently invited the most prominent Gaudiya Vaishnavas of Shri Vrindavana to attend. Knowing them to be followers of Shrila Rupa Gosvami, he called them to council with the followers of Shri Ramanuja. This happened in 1628 Saka (1706 A.D.), when Shrila Cakravarti Thakura was very old (about 68 years). So he consulted his foremost student, Gaudiya Vaishnava Vedantacarya Mahamahopadhyaya Pandit-kula-mukta Shripada Baladeva Vidys-bhusana. Thereafter, Shri Vidya-bhusana left Vrndavana to join the assembly in Jaipur, accompanied by his own student (and disciple of Shrila Cakravarti Thakura), Shri Krishnadeva Sarvabhauma.
The caste Gosvamis had completely forgotten their own loyalty to the Shri Madhva-sampradaya. Being ignorant of the true facts of the disciplic succession, and being disrespectful to Vaishnava Vedanta, they had fallen into such a degraded condition that Shri Blaldeva Vidya-bhusna was onliged to write a separate commentary on the Vedanta-sutra, according to the philosophy of the Gaudiya -sampradaya. This was done just to refute their false conclusions. Shrila Cakravarti Thakura gave his full sanction and approval to this task of counteracting the challenge, which simultaneously resulted in allowing the Gaudiya Vaishnava parampara to continue preaching freely.
This event marks the second illustration of Shrila Cakravarty Thakura’s preaching of the Vaishnava dharma. Specifically, this is a brilliant example of his endeavor to reform the Vaishnava acaryas who happened to be born in impure brahmana families.
Shrila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura wrote many, many books. The following is a list of as many books as is possible to locate:
THE GLORIOUS BOOKS OF SRILA VISVANATHA CAKRAVARTIPADA
1. Shri Krishna-bhavamrta
(Nectar-meditations on Shri Krishna’s Daily Sports) 1,347 Sanskrit verses in 20 chapters describing the eight periods of a day in the life of the Divine Couple and Their Friends.
2. Samkalpa Kalpa-druma
(The Desire Tree of Resolute Determination) 104 Sanskrit verses of prayer to Shri Radhika for the attainment of specific services rendered to Her during the eight periods of the day in Goloka Vrindavana. Often published as a seperate book, this work is included in Shri Visvanatha’s collection of prayers called Stavamrta-lahari.
(A Moonbeam of Sheer Astonishment) 226 Sanskrit verses in four chapters of short stories depicting Shri Krishna’s mischievious pranks conducted in various disguises: 1) Meeting in the Box, 2) Meeting in the Disguise of Abhimanyu, 3) Meeting in the Disguise of a Female Doctor, 4) Meeting in the Disguise of a Female Singer.
(The Jewel -box of Love) 141 Sanskrit verses narrating the story of Krishna coming before Shri Radha in the disguise of a demigoddess, and Radhika’s confidential confessions of the innermost core of Her selfless love for Him.
(The Touchstone of Life in Vraja) 234 Sanskrit verses in three chapters describing the holy flora, fauna, hills, lakes, groves, temples, and towns of the eternal realm of Vraja.
(The Nectar of Shri Gauranga’s Daily Pastimes) 11 Sanskrit verses depicting Shri Mahaprabhu’s daily pastimes conducted in eight periods of the day; the descriptions of the pastimes in each verse are expanded by the extensive Bengali verses composed by Shri Visvanatha’s direct disciple, the poet Krishnadasa.
(The Necta-Tonic of Shri Chaitanya) A work that was never finished; the story of it is mentioned in the 13th chapter of Shri Narottama Vilasa by Shri Narahari Cakravarti, the son of Visvanatha’s disciple Jagannatha Vipra.
(A Moonbeam Revealing the Path of Spontaneous Devotion) 22 Sanskrit paragraphs in two chapters of prose and verse which elaborate on the proper behavior and attitudes of one following the path of spontaneous devotional servive.
(A Row of Clouds of Sweetness) 8 “showers of nectar” (chapters) of Sanskrit prose which scientifically analyzes the various stages of advancement that one ascends while on the devotional path.
(A Row of Clouds of Majesty) A work mentioned by Visvanatha in the second chapter of his Madhurya-kadambibi. It is different from the work by Shri Baladeva Vidya-bhusana of the same name. The book by Visvanatha discusses the philosophy of “Dvaitadvaita-vada”; however no copy of this work has ever been found.
(One Ray of Shri Rupa Gosvami’s Book, Ujjvala-nilamani) 16 paragraphs of Sanskrit prose, composed as a condensed smmary study of Shrila Rupa Gosvami’s 1,453-verse work. It is an examination of the psychology of the Divine Couple’s relationship with other and with Their girlfriends.
(A Drop From the Nectar-Ocean of Devotion) 27 Sanskrit notes, composed as a summary of Shrila Rupa Gosvami’s book Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, which outlines the process of devotional service.
(A Speck of Shri Rupa Gosvami’s Book, Laghu-bhagavatamrta) 15 Sanskrit notes that sum up the information presented in Shri Rupa’s book, which describes Shri Krishna’s various incarnations and plenary portions.
(A Moonbeam Revealing the Truth of the Identity of Gaura’s Associates) A book which follows the earlier work of Shri Kavi Karnapura called Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika. It similarly reveals the Vraja-lila identity of various descendants of the Gaudiya-sampradaya), but is updated to include many other personalities that appeared in the sampradaya after Kavi Karnapura’s time.
(The Touchstone of Gauranga’s Bodily Beauty) Sanskrit verses describing the exact locations of the sacred marks found on Lord Chaitanya’s palms and soles, including those of Shri Nityananda and Shri Advaita. Visvanatha composed another work also called Rupa-cintamani that describes the head-to-toe beauty of Shri Shri Radha-Krishna, as well as the marks on the soles of Their lotus feet; this work is included in his collection called Stavamrta-lahari.
(The Touchstone of Songs to be Sung at Night) This is the first anthology of devotional songs written by Gaudiya Vaishnava poets in the Bengali, Sanskrit and Braja-bhuli languages. Visvanatha compiled the writings of 45 authors totalling 309 songs, among which are 51 of his own songs, signed with his other pen name Hari-vallabha. The songs are divided up into groups that are to be sung each night of the month; thus there are 30 divisions -- 15 for the dark fortnight and 15 for the light fortnight.
(A Torchlamp Illuminating the Kama-Gayatri Mantra) 18 Sanskrit notes in prose and verse which give detailed explanations of each and every syllable of kama-bija and kama-gayatri mantras. There is also a description of a doubt that Visvanatha had regarding the syllables of the mantra, and how Shri Radhika Herself appeared to him in a dream in order to solve the problem.
(Wave After Wave of Nectarean Prayers) A collection of 28 Sanskrit prayers, astakams, meditations and glorifications.
1.on Shrimad-bhagavatam, named Sarartha-darsisn (She Who Reveals the Inner, Essential Purports)
2.on Bhagavad-gita, named Sarartha-varsini (She Who Showers Forth the Hidden Meanings)
3.on Shri Rupa’s Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, named Bhakti-sara-pradarsini (She Who Demonstrates the Cream-like Essence of Devotion)
4.on Shri Rupa’s Ujjvala-nilamani, named Ananda-candrika (Moonbeams of Pure Bliss)
5.on Shri Rupa’s Lalita-madhava-nataka
6.on Shri Rupa’s Vidagha-madhava-nataka
7.on Shri Rupa’s Dana-keli-kaumudi, named Mahati (She Who Is Glorious)
8.on Shri Rupa’s Hamsa-duta
9.on Kavikarnapura’s Alankara-kaustubha, named Subhodini (She Who Informs Very Nicely)
10.on Kavi Karnapura’s Ananda-vrindavana-campu, named Sukha-varttini (She Who Establishes One in Happiness)
11.on Krishnadasa Kaviraja’s Shri Chaitanya-charitamrita, which is said to be incomplete.
12.on Narottama dasa Thakur’s Prema-bhakti-candrika
13.on Shri Brahma-samhita
14.on Gopala-tapani-upanisad, named Bhakta-harsini (She Who Gives Great Joy to the Devotees)
(Note: The original Bengali article by Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura contained a slightly smaller list of Shrila Cakravartipada’s books; the translator expanded the list and composed the individual descriptions.)