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THE LIFE OF RAGHUNATHA DASA GOSWAMI.
Once, five hundred years ago, close by the banks of the Ganga, in the state of Bengal, there was a beautiful village named Krishnapura. As was the case in most villages at that time, it was owned by one man, the Zamindar, or the leader of the village.
The people of Krishnapura rented a portion of land from the Zamindar and on this land grew fruits, vegetables, grains and of course, tendedcows and other animals.
The name of this particular Zamindar was Govardhana and he was much loved by the people of his village due to his very charitable nature. He cared for the citizens very much and always tended to their welfare.
Govardhana was also a Majumdara. This title was given to those who collected taxes for the Muslim ruler of all the villages in the area. The Muslim ruler at this time was Nawab Hussain Shah. Govardhana kept all of the financial accounts of the village for him as part of his service as a Majumdara.
The Zamindars were usually very wealthy powerful men and the Zamindar of would rent some farm land from himHe would rent all the farm land out and always tended to the welfare of the villagers.
In this village the Zamindar was also known as a Majumdara, which meant he collected the taxes for the Muslim ruler, (who at that time was the Nawab Husein Shah) and would keep all of the financial accounts of the village for him.
The Zamindars were usually very wealthy, powerful men and the Zamindar of Krishnapura was extremely so. It is said in the Chaitanya Charitamrita that he would collect as much as two million gold coins in a month. Half of this would go to the Nawab, but the rest would remain with the Zamindar.
In those days a rupee was called a gold coin,and was worth a great deal more than nowadays. A rupee could buy a parcel of land big enough to support one family,so we can imagine the wealth of this Zamindar,having an income of one million gold coins a month.
The name of this Zamindar was Govardhana and he was much loved by the people of the village due to his very charitable nature. He would always be offering gifts to the sadhus and Vaishnavas, and he daily fed the pilgrims who passed through the village.
Govardhana had a brother who was also a powerful landowner, and his name was Hiranya Majumdara. Between the two of them they were the wealthiest men in the district.
Many of the business men , at that time belonged to the Kayastha class. In the south of India this class of men were considered on an equal level with the sudras, the lower caste. But in the north of India, where our story takes place, they were thought of as being almost on the same level as the brahmanas, who were the highest class. This was due to their sharp intelligence and pious ways. Govardhana and Hiranya were from this Kayastha class.
The two brothers were indeed very charitable personalities, as well as being knowledgeable in the scriptures. They would always be engaged in distributing their wealth to the saintly Vaishnavas. In fact Shri Chaitanya’s father and uncle, as well as Advaita Acarya, all received gifts from the brothers at different times. They built a wonderful temple for Shri Shri Radha Govinda, and worshipped the Deities with great opulence. It was said by one Govinda das Kaviraja, (a contemporary of Raghunatha’s, in his book, “Sangita Nagari”), that the charity given by the two brothers even surpassed that of Karna’s (the Pandava) greatly famed munificence.
It was into this very wealthy pious family, in the year 1494, that Raghunatha dasa took birth. This was Govardhana’s first and only son. His appearance gave him and his wife, who loved their son with all their heart, much pleasure.
Since Hiranya had no children, it was understood that Raghunatha was the heir to the family fortune. To keep the family line going in those days was of utmost importance, so no expence was spared in his upbringing.
When Raghunatha was very young, he would have so many servants to attend his every need. When he awoke in the morning he would climb out of bed to go the the washroom, where a pathway of lotus flowers would protect his soft feet. There he would be bathed with wonderfully scented waters and dried and dressed by three servants.
He would never be allowed to see any ugliness. All servants had handsome features and cheerful dispositions. No beggars, maimed or sick people would come before Raghunatha. No one hungry,old or shivering and no one with bad eyesight,would be permitted to come anywhere near him. Indeed he was in a cocoon of material joy, protected by his parents on all sides.
This is reminiscent of the life of Lord Buddha, who was protected by his father in the same way. Like Buddha, Raghunatha accepted this protection for so long, but when the time was right, he searched further afield for the answers to life his father was unable to offer.
One day young Raghunatha heard from his teachers about a horse with a horn on his head and inquired from his father as to the truth of this animal. Govardhana replied that of course the animal existed and the next day he had a beautiful wooden unicorn made for his son. It had a gold horn which was studded with jewels.
“Anything Raghunatha wants he can have,” he would say.
Such were Raghunatha’s early days. His every desire was fulfilled. He was loved by everyone and treated like a prince.
He was never allowed to walk anywhere. There were always three palanquins ready to take him wherever he wanted to go. You may wonder why three palanquins were there just to carry one man. Their purpose was as follows. There were three main doorways leaving the palatial house in which he lived. Since no one knew which doorway he would emerge from, a palanquin waited by each, so Raghunatha would not be kept waiting.
“But I want to walk,” Raghunatha would complain.
“No no! Your father has said you must go in a palanquin. You are a prince,” his servants would say.
His childhood days passed in this way.
The family had two priests who lived close by, Balarama Acarya and Yadunandana Acarya. These two great souls would look after the wonderful Radha Govinda temple,and impart the Bhagavatam to Govardhana and his family. One day the great saint Haridasa Thakura, the spiritual master of Balarama Acarya , came to stay with him. The acarya, treating him with great care and attention, persuaded him to remain in the village for a time. Haridasa was given a solitary thatched cottage ,which was only big enough for one man to sit in, and there he would chant the Hare Krishna maha mantra. He would take his bath in the river,and his only dress were his kopins. He would take a little prasadam only when he’d finished chanting his prescribed three hundred thousand names of God each day. In this way the great renunciant lived.
Slowly the news spread around the area that a very pure soul was staying with Balarama and many people came to see him.
Hearing this, Govardhana sent his son Raghunatha over to see the Thakura and get his blessings. He provided eight horsemen to accompany him, and loaded them up with gifts for the Thakura. Fine clothes,costly silks,grains and fruits were all sent to him. On arriving at the village, the horseman found the Thakura in his tiny cottage and informed him that they had come from the local Zamindar with a grand offering for him. They inquired as to where to put the presents.
Perusing the vast array of gifts and looking at his tiny cottage, Haridasa laughed and asked the name of the Zamindar.
“Govardhana Majumdara,” they replied, “ and this is his son and heir, Raghunatha. He has come for your blessings.”
Haridasa looked at the young prince amidst all this opulence and smiling said, “Yes I will bless you. I will bless you to get detachment” Raghunatha’s heart leapt at these words, and he took them deeply within himself. In fact Raghunatha was to spend the rest of his life fully absorbing this mood of renunciation.
But Balarama who was present, quickly sneezed, making it unable for the other servants to hear. Balarama himself was very pleased with the blessing that had been bestowed on Raghunatha, but he knew Govardhana would not be.
When the servants returned and went before the Majumdara, who was seated on his big seat, surrounded by silk cushions and servants, they bowed before him, and related their visit to the Thakura. Then Govardhana inquired as to what blessing had been given to his Raghunatha.
“Well he said something,but we couldn’t really hear,” they replied.
So Govardhana asked Balarama if he had heard what the Thakur said.
“Oh yes. He said that he will own the whole world. That was the blessing.”
If one thinks deeply about this statement by Balarama Acarya, he will see that he was indirectly saying that he will renounce the whole world.
Govardhana beamed and looked across at Hiranya, saying, “Just see Hiranya! We only own one village but our boy will own the whole world.”
But Raghunatha had taken the blessing to heart, which was to cultivate vairagya. He had not the slightest desire to become the most powerful man in the world. He immediately began to secretly cultivate this most noble quality, even amongst so much opulence.
Now at this time Balarama invited Haridasa Thakura to a meeting in the temple with the local brahmanas, Govardhana and Hiranya. The Thakura spoke of the glories of chanting the holy names of the Lord, and that liberation could be easily achieved through this chanting. He explained that chanting these names was also the goal of this chanting, to glorify the Lord.
There was one Mayavadi tax collector present known as Gopala Cakravati, who was described as being learned and youthful, and having handsome bodily features. This young man, Gopala Cakravati became angry at the words of Haridasa, and immediately criticized him, saying that Haridasa was simply an emotional devotee. Then he declared, ”If one is not liberated by Nama bhasa, then you may be certain that I shall cut off your nose.”
The assembly of Vaishnavas were furious and threw Gopala out of the meeting, They profusely apologized to the Thakura, throwing themselves at his feet. But Haridasa was not disturbed.
“None of you are at fault,” he said. “Indeed, even this ignorant so called brahmana is not at fault, for he is accustomed to dry speculation and logic. One cannot understand the glories of the holy name simply by logic and argument. Therefore this man cannot possibly understand or appreciate the glories of the holy name.”
“You may now all go to your homes. May Lord Krishna bestow His blessings upon you. Do not be sorry because of my being insulted.”
The Thakura quietly left for his cottage. A few days later Gopala Cakravati contracted leprosy and his beautiful nose melted off.
The characteristic of a pure devotee is that he excuses any offence by an ignorant rascal. The characteristic of Krishna however, is that He cannot tolerate any blasphemy of His devotees.
Raghunatha was witness to this pastime of Haridasa Thakura’s and henceforth even more studiously cultivated his blessing of renunciation.
Now one day, Balarama came to Govardhana and began to describe the qualities of a great sage and Vaishnava who he was going to visit in Santipura. In fact, he was saying that this devotee was as good as Krishna and Govardhana must allow his son Raghunatha to accompany him in a visit to see Him. He reasoned with Govardhana that since Raghunatha had all material wealth, so too must he have spiritual wealth. Govardhana consented and arranged many servants to go with them. He also prepared many gifts for Raghunatha to take and offer to this great Mahatma.
When the party arrived in Santipura, who should be there but Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu himself. When Raghunatha and Gauranga saw each other, there was immediately a flow of love between them. Chaitanya called him to Him and rubbed His feet on his head. He said, “You be with Me and we will discuss Lord Hari .”
Raghunatha stayed but the next day his father became anxious, sending ten men to bring his son home, but the men became so inspired by Lord Chaitanya that they too stayed. The next day he sent more men and they also stayed. Eventually over one hundred men had come from Govardhana to bring his son back. Everyone was going but no one was coming back. They had been charmed by the transcendental potency of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Finally Govardhana himself came to take him home. When he arrived, he saw an ocean of people. He thought that this must be such a great Sadhu. He must be doing something very miraculous. Then he saw that the Mahatma was crying, with His arms in the air. He was simply chanting “Krishna! Mukunda! Madhava!”
When Govardhana saw this, he became quite disturbed. As a Vaishnava he understood that his his son became attached to this Personality, Who so obviously was not of this world, he would also adopt His mood of detachment from all things material. He had to remove Raghunatha from this situation.
But now a dilemma arose in his mind, as he had also become captivated by the Lord and did not want to leave. With the help of his men, they set about searching for Raghunatha, swarming aimfully among a sea of transcendentally intoxicated people.
Upon finding his son he implored him to leave. He said that he must go home straight away, there was a very important job he must do. He told his son, “You go and I will stay.”
Raghunatha was not happy at this. Approaching Lord Chaitanya, he beseeched Him to allow him to stay.
Lord Chaitanya said, “No no! You must go home now. Be a good boy and listen to everything your father says. He is a good Vaishnava.”
He told Raghunatha that once love of God had entered the heart,it would be very difficult to keep away from the object of that love. He told him not to worry, that soon the Lord will arrange for them to be reunited. He assured him that next time they met, it will be without fear of impending separation. Seeing Raghunatha’s face full of anguish, He spoke soothing words and advised him how to spend his time while waiting for this moment. He said, “It you journeyed to Vrindavan you would absorb the transcendental atmosphere of the dhama. This would make our separation more tolerable for you.”
Raghunatha went over to his father and said, “Mahaprabhu said I should go to Vrindavan.”
“No problem,” his father replied, “but for now please come home.”
In this way Raghunatha was enticed to leave the association of Lord Chaitanya and the assembly of Vaishnavas and rejoin his father.
When it came time for Raghunatha to go to Vrindavan,his father prepared a whole army to accompany him. He had them go ahead and build kitchens to give Raghunatha nice prasadam along the way,and so many elaborate arrangements were made for his comfort.In this way Raghunatha made his first visit to Vrindavan.
Upon his return to Krishnapura, he became very restless,due to his increased love for Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He had decided to give up the life of opulence he was living and take full shelter of Shri Chaitanya .At night after the brahmanas had finished their recitation of the Bhagavatam and everyone was in bed,Govardhana would hear ‘tap tap tap’on the shutters of the window. Getting up, he grabbed his small sword and called to his soldiers to find out what the noise was.
Having investigated the matter, they came back, informing Govardhana that it was Raghunatha trying to break the window. When Govardhana was told that it was his beloved son, yet again trying to escape, he hastened to his room.
Raghunatha had just managed to open the window. His heart was overflowing with joy in anticipation of a reunion with Lord Chaitanya.
He eagerly peered from the window to assess his next move but who should he see standing right outside it but his father. His heart sank and he repeatedly cursed himself for his misfortune but resigning himself to his fate, he went back to bed.
These attempts at escape went on constantly for many months. He was always trying to get away from the compound but his father’s soldiers would always capture him and bring him home.
The most beautiful wife was found for him. She was described as looking like a damsel from the heavenly planets. It was hoped that she would be able to encourage him to take up family life. But Raghunatha was not slightly interested. His only interest was in vairagya and reaching the lotus feet of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
so happened at this time, there was a Mohammedan official collecting the taxes to take to the Nawab. Previously, when the Mohammedan government was in power, the person appointed tax collector would collect the taxes from the local Zamindaras. He would keep one fourth of the collection himself as a profit and the balance he would deliver to the treasury.
However, when Hiranya, Raghunatha’s uncle made an agreement with the government to also collect taxes, the Mohammedan tax collector became extremely envious, having lost his position to Hiranya.
The Mohammedan, who was a Turk, accused Hiranya of taking more than his share of the collected taxes, and he sent a very strong letter to the government, complaining about Hiranya’s theft.
The government forces came to arrest Hiranya, but he had gone away for a while and was not home. Govardhana was also away at that time. Raghunatha was the only male representative at home so they arrested him and threw him in jail.
Raghunatha was threatened each day with severe punishment if he didn’t reveal the whereabouts of his uncle or father. But Raghunatha, who actually did not know their whereabouts, was unable to give them any information.
Frustrated, the Turk wanted to beat Raghunatha, and was about to do so, but as soon as he saw Raghunatha’s face, full of purity and innocence, his heart softened and was unable to think of hurting him.
With great humility, Raghunatha submitted this plea at the feet of the Mohammedan.
In order to attain release, Raghunatha used his intelligence and diplomacy to dealing with this difficult situation. “My dear sir, my father and his elder brother are both your brothers. All brothers fight about something. Sometimes brothers fight amongst themselves and sometimes they have very friendly dealings. There is no certainty when such changes will take place. Thus I am sure that although today you are fighting, tomorrow you three brothers will be sitting together in peace.
Just as I am my father’s son, so I am yours. I am your dependent and you are my maintainer. For a maintainer to punish the person he maintains is not good. You are expert in all the scriptures. Indeed you are like a living saint.”
Hearing Raghunatha’s appealing voice, the Mohammedan’s heart softened, so much so that he began to cry. Tears glided down his beard and he told Raghunatha, “Your are my son from this day on. Today, by some means I shall have you released.”
After informing the minister in charge, the Mohammedan had Raghunatha released and began to speak to him with great affection.
“We will make a financial arrangement with your uncle to both of our benefits. Go and tell your uncle that I will do whatever he thinks best, and will completely depend on his decision.”
Raghunatha arranged the meeting and the matter was settled to everyone’s satisfaction.
Raghunatha’s recent service to his father and uncle did not however,increase his attachment to hearth and home and his mind constantly dwelled on escape, from this material encumbrance.
Raghunatha’s good mother became increasingly disturbed at her son’s frustrated behavior. In fear and desperation that she may soon lose him, she pleaded with Govardhana that they should bind him with ropes. She said that since he had seen that Sannyasa Who was always crying, he had been like this. She had also seen others who had become strange since they had seen Him. She thought Raghunatha had become mad. What she couldn’t understand was that his ‘madness’ was a manifestation of his transcendental love for the Supreme Lord. It was divine madness.
Govardhana replied, “Raghunatha das, our son, has opulences like Indra the king of heaven and his wife is as beautiful as an apsara. However it does not seem that we can tie his mind with them. How then could we keep this boy at home by binding him with ropes? It is not possible even for one’s father to nullify the reactions of one’s past activities. How then could I control him? Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has fully bestowed His mercy on him.
Who can keep home such a mad man of Chaitanyacandra?”
Raghunatha had heard that Lord Nityananda would soon be coming to Patnihati. For one whole week he appeased his parents by making no attempt at escape. At the end of the week, he went to his father and begged him to let him go to Patnihati to see the Lord, Who at that time was performing Hari Nama through the village, and was accompanied by many kirtana performers,servants and others. Witnessing with some awe, his son’s determination, Govardhana felt he had no choice but to give in. Not wanting his son to experience any hardship, he sent with him many men to attend to his every need.
Sitting on a rock under a tree on the bank of the Ganga, Lord Nityananda seemed as effulgent as hundreds and thousands of rising suns.
Many devotees sat on the ground surrounding Him. Seeing the influence of Nityananda Prabhu, Raghunatha das became astonished. Feeling too unworthy to stand before the Lord, he offered his obeisances by falling prostrate at a distance but one of the disciples of Lord Nityananda saw him and pointed him out. The Lord, recognising him as an eternal associate, had him brought before Him. Lord Nityananda was by nature very merciful and funny. He spoke to Raghunatha as follows.
“You are just like a thief, for instead of coming near, you stay away at a distant place. Now I have captured you and I shall punish you. Make a festival and feed all the devotees chipped rice and yogurt.”
The devotees were very amused. The so called punishment was actually a merciful benediction.
Hearing this Raghunatha was very pleased, as at last he was able to use his wealth to please Lord Nityananda. He immediately sent his men to purchase all the eatables. As word got around that a festival was about to take place under the direction of Lord
Nityananda, crowd increased. Raghunatha arranged for hundreds of pots of chipped rice and yogurt to be brought along, with so many other sweets and bananas.
The two main preparations were chipped rice soaked in milk and chipped rice mixed with yogurt , sugar and bananas. Everyone at the festival was given a pot of each.
Lord Nityananda was seated on a raised platform with some of his closest associates. Many other learned scholars, brahmanas and priests were there also and they too sat on the platform with Him.
Eventually there were too many people on the platform, so some sat around the edge and some sat on the sandy banks of the Ganga.
At that time the great associate of Lord Chaitanya, Raghava Pandit arrived and laughed with surprise to see such a wonderful festival taking place.
Smiling, Lord Nityananda told Raghava Pandit, “I belong to a community of cowherd boys and therefore I generally have many cowherd associates with Me. I am happy when we eat a nice picnic like this together, by the sandy bank of the river.”
Then, in meditation, Lord Nityananda brought Lord Chaitanya to that place. Lord Chaitanya observed the festival scene with much pleasure. Lord Nityananda proceeded to put food from the offerings into His brother’s mouth in a joking manner. The two of Them sported in this way. Only a few were able to witness Lord Chaitanya’s presence.
All the confidential devotees who were actually cowherd boys,were absorbed in ecstatic love. They thought the bank of the Ganges to be the bank of the Yamuna!
Many shop keepers arrived selling all kinds of food. Raghunatha brought it all from them. Then he proceeded to feed it back to them!
Finally when the Lord’s remnants were ready to by distributed among His most intimate associates, only Raghunatha was called forward by Him to receive this special mercy. Raghunatha became ecstatic upon eating them.
That evening all of the devotees began a huge rousing kirtan, and Lord Nityananda began to dance very wonderfully in their midst. It was them that Lord Chaitanya appeared to join the dancing,but again this was only witnessed by a very few intimate associates.
After the dancing and kirtana, Raghava Pandit fed all of the assembly, supper. Again Lord Chaitanya appeared and partook of Raghava Pandit’s offering. Raghunatha was again given these precious remnants.
The next morning Raghunatha submitted his desire to Lord Nityananda. Raghunatha said, “My desire is to attain the shelter of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Like a dwarf who wants to catch the moon, I have tried many times, but have never been successful. Every time I try to go away, giving up my father’s home and relations, they keep me bound up. No one can attain the shelter of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu without Your mercy. Although I am unfit for this benediction, I am begging it from You.”
After hearing this appeal by Raghunatha, Lord Nityananda smiled and told the devotees, “Raghunatha’s standard of material happiness is equal to that of Indra, the king of heaven. Because of Lord Chaitanya’s mercy Raghunatha does not like it at all.”
Then He called Raghunatha to Him and placed His feet upon his head. He told him that in fact Lord Chaitanya had attended this very feast. He had actually come there just to deliver Raghunatha. He told Raghunatha that he should rest assured that very soon he would be placed under the charge of Shri Chaitanya’s secretary, Svarupa Damodara, and become one of the most confidential internal servants of Shri Chaitanya. But until then, he should return to his home and live quietly until the Lord arranged for his release.
Raghunatha was so pleased to receive such mercy that he secretly delivered an enormous amount of gold coins to Raghava Pandit, who was serving Lord Nityananda. With great humility he instructed Raghava, not to inform the devotees where it had come from, but at a later date distribute it to them. After taking the dust from the feet of Raghava Pandit, Raghunatha das returned to his home, feeling greatly obligated to the Lord.
From that day on he did not sleep in his father’s house but built a tiny cottage beside it. The cottage was guarded by soldiers, as it was feared that Raghunatha would still try to escape. His main aim in this endeavor was to maintain a renounced standard of living. For a whole year he didn’t try to run away. He went about his duties as the perfect dutiful son. As a result, his father and attendants felt assured that he no longer wanted to escape and slowly the guard relaxed.
One evening however, Yadunandana Acarya,the family priest, who was always filled with love of God, and who was a disciple of Advaita Acarya, came to visit Govardhana. He had been having some difficulty with the pujari in the temple, who had left his service and was wanting Govardhana to resolve the issue. But Govardhana was not at home that evening. Nor was his brother, Hiranya. The Acarya decided to seek the help of Raghunatha. When Yadunandana approached Raghunatha he agreed to come straight away. But by now it was late at night and the guards had dozed off. Because Raghunatha had behaved so well for the last year, they were not as attentive to him as they had previously been.
That night he left the house with only Yadunandana. Together
they walked to the pujari’s house. Upon arrival, Raghunatha suggested that Yadunandana return home, saying that he would speak to the pujari himself. Yadunandana agreed and returned to his own house.
Raghunatha, alone and free at last,and believing this to be a divine arrangement by Lord Chaitanya, turned and made haste to Jagganatha Puri to seek the lotus feet of his Lord and master.
At that time, devotees from everywhere were traveling to see Lord Chaitanya. Raghunatha knew that if he traveled with them, his father’s men would catch up with him and bring him back. So he took the unused track through a different route and simply ran all night and the next day. That evening he slept in a cow shed and was given some milk by a farmer. Again the next day he was off, traveling along the small track off the main road. In this way he avoided his father’s men who had in fact caught up with Sivananda Sena and the other devotees traveling to Jagganatha. But they hadn’t found Raghunatha to be amongst them.
Twelve days later,on a journey that usually took at least twenty days ,Raghunatha arrived in Jagganatha Puri. He had thought of nothing except the lotus feet of Lord Chaitanya, and in this way he sustained himself. Having eaten only three times along the way, he was in a poor condition on his arrival.
On arriving in Jagganatha Puri, he found Lord Chaitanya seated with the devotees,headed by Svarupa Damodara Goswami. Raghunatha paid his obeisances,again from a distant place,but Mukunda saw him and pointed him out to the Lord, Who immediately called him over and happily embraced him.
This moment was the culmination of a lifetime’s endeavour and Raghunatha could at last place all his love at the feet of his eternal master.
The Lord said to him “My dear Raghunatha,by leaving your opulent lifestyle to take up the path of vairagya you have been delivered from the ditch of materialistic life, which is like a hole into which people pass stool. Although your father and uncle are pious men, they are not pure vaishnavas, because of their material attachments.”
Then seeing that Raghunatha was skinny and dirty, His heart melted. Immediately He entrusted him to Svarupa Damodara, with instructions to treat him as kindly as he would his son or servant. Saying this He took the hand of Svarupa Damodara and placed it in that of Raghunatha’s and embraced them both again.
Lord Chaitanya had just introduced Raghunatha to the person who was to give him personal spiritual guidance for the remainder of their time together.
He turned to Govinda and said, “Raghunatha has fasted and undergone hardship for many days. Therefore take good care of him and feed him to his full satisfaction.”
Having instructed Svarupa Damodara and Govinda what to do for Raghunatha, he gave Raghunatha himself the following instructions. He said, “Go and bathe in the sea. When you have done this take darshan of Lord Jagganatha. Then return and take your meal.”
The Lord then left and all of the devotees were struck with wonder at the good fortune Raghunatha had received and they also in turn embraced him. For the next sixteen years, Raghunatha was to stay in Puri associating and serving Lord Chaitanya and all the devotees.
One day, Lord Chaitanya inquired from Govinda as to Raghunatha’s whereabouts. He was informed that Raghunatha was now begging for his food. Lord Chaitanya was very pleased. “Raghunatha has acted well. This is suitable behavior for a person in the renounced order of life. One should always chant Hare Krishna and beg some alms to eat and should live in this way. A vairagyi will be unsuccessful if he depends on others. One who is subservient to the tongue and genitals, by constantly making arrangements for their satisfaction, can never attain Krishna.”
The following day, Raghunatha inquired from Svarupa Damodara as to what duties he could perform for Lord Chaitanya. Svarupa Damodara decided to submit this inquiry to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Who replied, “I would like Raghunatha das to behave in the following way. Do not talk like people in general or hear what they say. You should not eat very palatable food, nor should you dress very nicely.
Do not expect honor, but offer all respects to others. Always chant the holy name of the Lord and within your mind render service to Radha and Krishna in Vrindavana.
One who thinks himself lower than the straw in the street, who is more tolerant than the tree and who does not expect any personal honor, but is always ready to give respect to others, can very easily always chant the holy name of the Lord.”
The authorised scriptures state the Svarupa Damodara was the incarnation of Radharani’s senior maid servant Lalita. Raghunatha’s position in the the spiritual world was that of Lalita’s principle servant, Rasa Manjari. Thus the eternal intimate relationship between them was set into play for Lord Chaitanya’s pastimes.
The devotees from Bengal arrived, as had been their custom, for the annual cleaning of the Gundica temple. The festival took place, ending with a wonderful picnic which was held in the garden.
The following day a huge Rathayatra festival was held. At this Rathayatra, Raghunatha observed the Lord dancing so beautifully with all the devotees,and was struck with wonder.
At the end of four months, the Bengali devotees left for their homes. It was then that Raghunatha was given the opportunity to stay with the Lord’s most intimate disciples.
When Raghunatha’s father heard from the returning devotees about the condition of his son, he was very saddened. He sent money to Raghunatha through his men. Raghunatha would not accept the money for himself, but invited Mahaprabhu to his house to take prasadam twice in a month. He would take from his father’s servants what money he needed to do this.
He performed this service for two years. One day at the end of this period, he began to consider that he was doing an injustice to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu by accepting the money of materialistic people. Therefore he stopped this practice.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was happy when He heard why He was no longer being invited to take His meal with Raghunatha. He said, “When one eats food offered by materialistic men, one’s mind becomes contaminated. And when the mind is contaminated, one is unable to think of Krishna properly.”
Some days after this, Raghunatha also gave up standing at the Simha-dvara gate to beg. Instead, he began taking his daily meal at the free distribution boothe. Lord Chaitanya was pleased with this move also and commented that the idea of begging is like a prostitute,in that she gages the wealth of her customers. In the same way a beggar gages the wealth of certain people for alms. His father had been sending his servants in disguise,(so Raghunatha wouldn’t recognize them) to drop money into Raghunatha’s begging bowl. This had greatly displeased Raghunatha, so much so that he gave up begging altogether.
By Raghunatha’s constant display of renunciation, Lord Chaitanya became so pleased that He gave him His own Govardhana Sila. The Lord had been worshipping the Sila for the last three years. It was said that the Sila was moist from the tears of the Lord. Raghunatha was overjoyed to receive this great treasure . In his worship, he could perceive Krishna directly in the stone, which would make Raghunatha over flow with tears of ecstatic love.
He would spend more that twenty two hours every day chanting the Maha Mantra and remembering the lotus feet of the Lord. He ate and slept for less than an hour and a half and on some days even sleeping was impossible, so strong was his love for Krishna.
Throughout his life his tongue never engaged in sense gratification. He never touched anything to wear except a small torn cloth and a patchwork wrap. He would only eat to keep his body and soul together.
Soon he gave up even going to the free boothe and would take instead the decomposed remnants that had been thrown to the cows, by the Simha gate. At night, he would stealthily go and retrieve a few grains of rice and washing them, he would gather his prasadam.
When Svarupa Damodara found this out he chastised him, saying, “You eat such nectar every day, but you never invite us. Where is your character?”
When the Lord came to hear of this He came to Raghunatha and asked, “What nice things are you eating? Why don’t you give anything to Me?” Saying this he forcibly took a morsel and began to eat.
Svarupa Damodara became disturbed by seeing the Lord take such unofferable foodstuff,and decided not to allow the Lord to take anymore. He pleaded with Him, saying, “This is not fit for You.”
To his surprise, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu responded in this way. He said, “Every day I eat a variety of prasadam, but I have never tasted as nice prasada as Raghunatha is taking.”
In this way the Lord showed His great pleasure at seeing the severe penances performed by Raghunatha.
Raghunatha is described by one poet, Kavi Karnapura as follows:-“Because he is very pleasing to all the devotees, Raghunatha das Goswami easily became like the fertile earth of good fortune in which it was suitable for the seed of Lord Chaitanya to be sown. At the same time that the seed was sown, it grew into a matchless tree of love for Lord Chaitanya and produced wonderful fruit.”
It is stated in the Shri Gaura Ganoddesa dipaka, that Shrila Raghunatha dasa Goswami was the incarnation of the gopi Rasa Manjari. Some say he was Rati Manjari, while others say he was Banumati devi.
On the disappearance of his most beloved Lord, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Raghunatha’s heart broke. The feelings of separation were so strong that he felt he could no longer maintain the life in his body and he journeyed to Vrindavan with the intention of leaving this world.
On arriving there he was met by Rupa and Sanatana Goswamis who told him that no, he must not even think of leaving his body, there was so much service to be done for the Lord. Now he must help them write about the pastimes of he Lord, enunciating devotional service. They told him that soon Krishna das Kaviraja would come and write the most wonderful of books, the Chaitanya Charitamrita, but he would be needing Raghunatha’s diary as well as the diary of Svarupa Damodara, which he also had in his possession. They told him of their mission to find and preserve the many sacred places in the Holy Dhama that had become covered,and Raghunatha must help them in this great undertaking.
Raghunatha agreed to their proposal and gave up his idea of suicide. Now he would travel around the dhama continually, glorifying the Lord. He took practically no food and slept for only one hour a day. In the true mood of a renunciant, his residence was not fixed. Each night he would sleep under a different tree.
While Raghunatha dasa was at Radha Kunda and Syama Kunda,which were practically no more than small ponds of water, discovered by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Himself, he would look upon the fallen state of these once very beautiful lakes and sometimes wish he could in some way restore them to their former splendour. Then he would chastize himself for desiring something which required so much money.
Now there was one very wealthy merchant, who underwent great austerities in climbing all the way to Badarikasrama to offer an enormous amount of wealth at the lotus feet of Shri Badrinarayana. That night as he slept, he had a dream. In the dream the Lord visited him saying that he should deliver his wealth to a certain Raghunatha dasa Goswami in Vraja. He further instructed him that if Raghunatha refused to accept it the merchant should remind Raghunatha of his wish to restore Radha Kunda and Syama Kunda to their former beauty.
The merchant was very happy to have received such mercy in the form of a wonderful dream and quickly left for Vraja. On arriving there he met Raghunatha dasa and related to him his dream. The Goswami was very surprised by this news, but quickly consented and engaged the merchant himself in the construction work.
Unbeknownst to Raghunatha, on the banks of Radha Kunda, the five Pandavas were residing in the form of trees. As the work was proceeding it was decided that the trees would have to be cut down. That night the five Pandavas appeared in a dream to Raghunatha and requested him not to cut the trees down as they were residing there in that form.
Needless to say, Raghunatha immediately stopped the men from their efforts,and today the trees are still present, gracing the beautiful kunds that were completed at that time. Seeing this beauty, Raghunatha became ecstatic and the bliss of the devotees assisting him knew no bounds.
On the banks of Radha Kunda, Raghunatha das Goswami would live. Each night he would stay under a different tree. Sometimes he would stay on the banks of the Manasa Ganga. At that time these areas were jungles filled with ferocious animals. One day, Sanatana Goswami came to the banks of Manasa Ganga to meet Gopala Bhatta Goswami. Before accepting his noon meal at Gopal Bhatta’s bhajan kutir, he went to take bath at the Pavan ghat of Manasa Ganga. From there he saw two tigers come to the kund and after drinking some water, saunter off. Just near that spot, Raghunatha das Goswami was sitting under a tree absorbed in his bhajana. Sanatana Goswami was startled to see this but even more so when he saw Shri Krishna standing at some distance observing everything. He then requested Raghunatha to do his bhajan within a hut so the Lord would not have to go to the bother of having to protect him.
On another occasion, Raghunatha das, who still hadn’t bothered to have a kutir constructed was sitting in the noon day sun absorbed in his bhajana. Shrimati Radharani happened to pass that way and seeing that the sun was beating down on Raghunatha’s head, stood behind him and held the end of her sari to shield him from the sun’s rays. One of the Goswamis came along and saw this heart rending scene, while profuse perspiration continued to flow from Shrimati Radharani’s transcendental body. This time when he was again requested to build his bhajan kutir, he immediately complied.
We can see from this that Raghunatha dasa was a very pure saint.
Through his pure devotion the Lord became his servant.
In Vraja, Krishna is served by Radharani and Candravali, who each have unlimited maid servants. According to the mellows of paramour love, Raghunatha das Goswami counted himself as a maidservant of the friends of Shrimati Radharani. As Candravali is the chief competitor of Radharani, Raghunatha would never go to her kunda or talk with any of her sakhis. Thus he always served the servants of Radharani within his mind.
One Brajabasi known as Shri dasa Brijabasi used to bring
Raghunatha a leafcup of buttermilk every day. Drinking this much only, Raghunatha dasa would engage in bhajan throughout the day. One day Shri das Brijabasi went to Candravali’s kunda, known as Sakhi sthali to herd his cows. There he saw a palash tree with very large leaves, so he collected some to make leafcups. The next day, in one of the new leafcups he brought some buttermilk to Raghunatha. Raghunatha das accepted the leafcup of buttermilk and inquired, “Shri Dasji, where did you get these nice palash leaves?”
Shri dasji replied, “While I was pasturing the cows I came to Sakhi Sthali and found them there.”
Simply hearing the word, ‘Sakhi Shtali’ , Raghunatha dasa flew into a rage and threw the leafcup of buttermilk away saying, “The followers of Shrimati Radharani never accept anything from that place.”
Seeing the loyal devotion of Raghunatha dasa for Shrimati Radharani, Shri dasji was amazed.
As fallen souls of the age of Kali, we can only appreciate the highly elevated and pure devotion Raghunatha has for Shrimati Radharani. We should be cautioned not to try and imitate this mood of Raghunatha’s, as we are not in any position to minimise the importance of Shrimati Candravali, who serves the Lord with pure devotion in Vrindavan Dhama.
Raghunatha dasa would always serve Shri Shri Radha Govinda within his mind. One day in his meditation he cooked sweet rice and offered it to Them. In great pleasure They accepted the offering and the other gopis also relished this prasadam. Then Raghunatha himself honored Their remnants and in great ecstasy, due to the pleasure of having been able to satisfy Shri Shri Radha Govinda and Their loving attendants, he ate a little more than was his custom.
In the afternoon Raghunatha used to speak about Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. However, this day when the devotees came to hear him speak, they found that the door to his kutir was closed. They waited for some time but when it appeared that there was no movement inside, they became a little anxious and called out, “Goswamiji, are you all right?”
Raghunatha answered, “My body is not well.”
The devotees became concerned and immediately sent word to Sanatana Goswami in Mathura. At that time, Shri Sanatana Goswami was staying with Shri Vallabhacarya’s son Shri Vithalnathji, who immediately sent two physicians to Radha kunda to examine Raghunatha. After checking his pulse, the doctors discussed among themselves the reasons for his sickness.
“Due to eating a combination of rice and milk, his body is feeling very heavy,” said one.
“Yes,” said the other. “Such eating has certainly imbalanced his life airs and caused this disease.”
Hearing this diagnosis everyone was struck with wonder. Raghunatha das Goswami, who subsisted on only a little buttermilk each day, fell ill from eating too much sweet rice! It was astonishing. The food that had caused his disease was only eaten in meditation.
The devotees already knew that Raghunatha dasa was very special, but this incident confirmed their appreciation to an even greater degree and love and admiration for him swelled within their hearts.
Throughout his life, Raghunatha das Goswami was known for his inoffensive behavior. He would never hear a criticism of another devotee, or in fact anyone. As an utthama adikari he saw everyone as an eternal servant of the Lord. If he happened to be in a place where criticism was being voiced, he would block his ears and run away.
Each day thousands of people would come to seek his blessings, offer him respects and purify their hearts. Upon seeing them from a distance, Raghunatha would offer his obeisances to them. He would also offer over one thousand obeisances to the Holy Dhama of Vrindavan every day.
In this way we get a tiny glimpse into this most intimate, renounced follower of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He lived to a very advanced age even though subsisting on almost nothing. One could say that he only subsisted on the chanting of the Holy Names of God.
Such is the power of chanting Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare,Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. Through it we can become detached from this material conception, and reawaken our true spiritual consciousness, that of Krishna Preme.