Parishads: Srila Rupa Goswami
BY: SUN STAFF
Lord Chaitanya's Sankirtan Party
Chore Bagan Art Studio, Calcutta, c. 1895
British Museum Collection
August 03, 2017 CANADA (SUN) The Disappearance day of Srila Rupa Gosvami is observed on August 3rd.
shri-rupa-maïjari khyata yasid vrindavane pura
sadya rupakhya-gosvami bhutva prakatatam 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 Karnataka, 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).
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur has summarized this family history in his Anubhashya: “Jagad-guru Sarvajïa 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 Naihati 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. 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, Srivasa, 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.
Srila 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-caitanya-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.
(L Bhag, 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.
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-nataka:
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.
nijanurupe prabhur eka-rupe
prag iva loka-srishtim
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 Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s lila?
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.5.87)
kalena luptam nija-shaktim utkah
saïcarya rupe vyatanot punah sa
prabhor vidhau prag iva loka-srishtim
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 Sri 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 caitanya-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.
Particularly relevant in this connection is Srila 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.”
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-nishtha followers of the Veda, one person may perhaps attain the level of spiritual knowledge; yet only one of many millions of such jïanis 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)
Srila 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.”
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.
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 Sri 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.
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 ghatayate 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 Sri 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 Sri 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) Nataka-candrika and (16) Laghu- bhagavatamrita. Other than these sixteen titles, Upadeshamrita, Namashtaka, 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 Bhatt.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 Srimad 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.
Sri 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 maïjari 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 vaïcha-siddhi
sei mora vedera dharama
sei vrata, sei tapa
sei mora mantra japa
sei mora dharama karama
anukula habe vidhi
se pade haïbe siddhi
nirakhibo ei dui nayane
se rupa madhuri rashi
praphullita habe nishi-dine
tuwa adarshana ahi
garale jarala dehi
ciradina tapita jivana
ha ha prabhu koro daya
deha more pada chaya
narottama laïla sharana
Sri 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.
Srila 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 Srila 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.
Excerpted from "Sri Chaitanya: His Life & Associates" by Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Maharaj
Mandala Publishing 2001.