Parishads: Srila Gopala Bhatta Gosvami


Lord Chaitanya's Sankirtan Party
Chore Bagan Art Studio, Calcutta, c. 1895
British Museum Collection

Jul 24, 2016 — CANADA (SUN) — The Disappearance day of Srila Gopala Bhatta Goswami is observed on August 4th.

sadya gopala-bhattakah
bhatta-gosvaminam kecid
ahuh sri-guna-manjar

She who was formerly Ananga Manjari has appeared to enrich Mahaprabhu's pastimes as Srila Gopal Bhatta Goswami. Some say that Gopal Bhatta is actually Guna Manjari.
(Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika 184)

Srila Gopal Bhatta Goswami appeared in 1500 AD (though according to some authorities, he was born in 1503) as the son of Venkata Bhatta in the town of Srirangam in South India. Their residence was in a village not far from Srirangam called Belgundi.

According to Narahari in the Bhakti-ratnakara, Mahaprabhu gave Gopal Bhatta a dream vision through which he could witness all of His Nabadwip pastimes. Though Gopal was an eternal associate of Krishna, he appeared in a faraway place in order to make a special contribution to Lord Gauranga's pastimes. Thus even though he was living too far away to know anything about the Lord directly, he was still able to know long before he met the Lord in person that He had appeared and taken sannyas.

As a member of His Vrindavan entourage, Gopal Bhatta did not particularly like the Lord's appearance as a sannyasi. This austere form distressed Gopal, who was thus crying alone when the Lord appeared to him and gave him this vision of His form as a householder in Nabadwip. Gopal was overwhelmed with astonishment at seeing the Lord's beauty and he fell down at His feet. When he looked up, the Lord had transformed into His sannyasi form again. Calming Gopal, He gave him some instructions and then foretold that he would go to Vrindavan before long and there make disciples who would spread his teachings throughout the world.

The Lord then embraced Gopal and drenched him in His tears. He then told Gopal to keep all these revelations a secret. He then disappeared, leaving Gopal in a state of intense joy.
(Bhakti-ratnakara 1.123-4)

The Lord’s teachings to Gopal’s father

In 1510, Mahaprabhu made his auspicious appearance in the pilgrimage city of Shrirangam. He was invited by Venkata Bhatta to spend the four months of the Caturmasya in his house. Knowing him to be a strict Vaishnava, Mahaprabhu accepted his invitation. In fact, the Lord’s pastime of coming to Shrirangam and staying at Venkata Bhatta’s home was to give his mercy to Gopal Bhatta and his family, for the Lord knew that Gopal, his eternal companion, had appeared there.

At this time, Gopal Bhatta was still a young boy. He was fortunate enough to be able to serve the Lord by massaging his feet. Even though he was satisfied with Venkata Bhatta and his family’s service, the Lord observed that Venkata had an element of pride in his object of worship. He believed that his worshipable deity, Lakshmi-Narayan, was the supreme worshipable object, that Narayan was the source of all other incarnations, including Krishna, Rama and Nrisingha. His reasoning was that Narayan is never born, he is aja, while Krishna and Rama take birth in the world. He thus thought, “Mahaprabhu worships Krishna, the incarnation of Narayan, while we worship Narayan, the source of all incarnations.”

Madhusudana is the destroyer of false pride, and Mahaprabhu finally decided one day that he would do the same for Venkata. He asked him in a bantering tone, “Venkata, I hear that no one is equal in opulence to your Lord Narayan; the same is true for your worshipable goddess Lakmsi Devi. On the other hand, the object of my worship, Krishna, has no opulences of any kind. He wears garlands of wild forest flowers and uses peacock feathers for decoration. He is the son of Nanda Gopa, and spends his day grazing the cows with the other cowherd boys. My worshipable goddesses, the gopis, are also nothing but poor cowherd girls. I wonder, therefore, why your worshipable Lakshmi Devi came to Vrindavan to perform austerities in the hope of gaining Krishna’s company in the rasa dance.”

Venkata immediately answered, “What’s wrong with that? Radha’s beloved Krishna is not different from Lakshmi Devi’s husband Narayan.

siddhantatas tv abhede ‘pi shrisha-krishna-Svarupayoh
rasenotkrishyate krishnah krishna-rupam esha rasa-sthitih

“Though according to theological doctrine, Krishna and the husband of Lakshmi are identical in essence, the form of Krishna is superior when analyzed from the point of view of divine sentiment. This is the conclusion based on the analysis of divine sentiment.
(Brs 1.2.59)

“Since the divine sentiment in Krishna is superior, there is no fault if Lakshmi Devi chooses to seek his association and performs austerities to that end.”

Mahaprabhu answered, “I am not saying that there is any fault. I agree that from the transcendental point of view, Krishna and Narayan are identical. The difference between them is based on an analysis of sacred rapture. When the Lord performs pastimes of opulence, he is Narayan. When he performs pastimes of sweetness, he is Krishna. She who is Radha in Krishna’s pastimes is Lakshmi in the pastimes of Narayan. Thus, when Lakshmi performs austerities to have the association of Krishna there is no question of her breaking her vows of fidelity to her husband. Thus, she went to perform these austerities in Vrindavan. But I have another question for you: Why, even after trying so hard through such penances, etc., to enter Krishna’s rasa-lila, was Lakshmi still unable to do so?”

Venkata Bhatta was terribly distressed at being unable to give the Lord an answer. Mahaprabhu observed his distress and tried to pacify him by saying, “You yourself said that Narayan and Krishna are identical from the theological point of view, but that the superiority of Krishna is determined by an analysis of the divine sentiments. Narayan is involved in two and a half of the five principle rasas, whereas Krishna is experienced through the complete manifestation of all twelve rasas, the five principle and seven secondary sentiments. Since Narayan’s lila is primarily one of opulence and majesty, his principle devotee is Lakshmi, who also worships him in the appropriate mood of awe and reverence. The same Lakshmi Devi is Radhika in order to heighten the experience of romantic love. Unless one follows in the footsteps of Radha and her expansions, the gopis, who are the repositories of the erotic sentiment, then it is impossible to relish Krishna’s sweet qualities, i.e., those virtues which are particularly inspiring for the romantic mood of love. The reason for Lakshmi Devi’s failure is that she did not follow in the gopis’ footsteps, but continued to perform her austerities in the mood of awe and reverence. As a result, she repeatedly found herself in the company of Narayan and never in that of Krishna. By way of contrast, the Shrutis followed the gopis in the raga-marga and so were ultimately able to achieve Krishna’s service in the erotic mood. As long as one continues to think of Krishna in majestic terms as lord and creator of the universe, one cannot possibly worship in the spirit of raganuga bhakti.

“Krishna has one extraordinary characteristic: by his sweetness he attracts the minds of the entire world. By taking on the mood of the Vraja gopis one can attain to his lotus feet--the people of Vraja have no idea that Krishshna is the lord and creator of the universe. Some think of him as their son and even tie him to a mortar, while others take him to be their friend and climb on his shoulders. The people of Vraja only know him as the son of Nanda, whereas in the attitude of awe and reverence, the devotee does not have a concept of such a relationship to him. One who takes the attitude of a resident of Vraja will attain Krishna as the son of the king of Vraja in Vrindavan.
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.9.127-31)

“When the gopis, the objects of my worship, were abandoned by Krishna in the rasa dance they began to cry in the intensity of their distress at not seeing him. Krishna came to them in the form of Narayan, but the gopis simply paid their obeisances and moved on in search of Krishna, showing absolutely no interest in him as a lover. When Radharani stood before the disguised Krishna, however, he could not maintain the four-armed form but once again appeared in his form as the holder of the flute. Such is the power of Radharani’s love!”

“Nandanandana Krishna is the avatari, or source of all incarnations. Narayan, Rama, Nrisingha, etc., are all his incarnations and expansions. Krishna is svayam bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

“From his being the Supreme Personality of Godhead other forms of Godhead are also given the appellation of bhagavan. He alone however can be called the svayam bhagavan, or primeval supreme lord.
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.2.88)

ete camshakalah pumsah krishnas tu bhagavan svayam
indrari-vyakulam lokam mridayanti yuge yuge

All of the previously mentioned forms of the Lord are either plenary or partial expansions. Krishna alone is the original personality of the Godhead. He and his expansions appear in every age to bring joy to this world when tormented by the enemies of the gods.
(SB 1.3.28)

Gopal’s guru

Through the power of Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s merciful association, Venkata Bhatta, his brother Prabodhananda Saraswati, his son Gopal Bhatta Goswami, and all the other members of his family, were inspired to give up the worship of Lakshmi-Narayan and became engaged in the exclusive devotional service of Radha and Krishna. Srila Gopal Bhatta Goswami took initiation from his uncle, Tridandi Yati Shrimat Prabodhananda Saraswati. Proof of this is found in the Hari-bhakti-vilasa:

bhakter vilasamsh cinute prabodha
nandasya shishyo bhagavat-priyasya
gopala-bhatto raghunatha-dasam
santoshayan rupa-sanatanau ca

Gopal Bhatta, the disciple of Prabodhananda who is dear to the Lord, has collected these devotional activities to satisfy Raghunath Das, Rupa and Sanatan Goswamis.
(Hbv 1.2)

Gopal’s parents were very fortunate, for they surrendered themselves, life and soul, to the feet of Lord Chaitanya. They ordered their son to go to Vrindavan before they left this world, absorbed in meditating on the Lord. Gopal travelled directly to Vrindavan where he met with Rupa and Sanatan.
(Bhakti-ratnakara 1.163-5)

Gopal Bhatta Comes to Vrindavan

When Gopal arrived in Vrindavan, Rupa and Sanatan wrote to Mahaprabhu to tell him. The Lord was overjoyed and immediately wrote back telling them to affectionately take care of him as though he were their own younger brother. Srila Sanatan Goswami compiled the Hari-bhakti-vilasa and published it in Srila Gopal Bhatta Goswami's name. Rupa Goswami considered Gopal to be as dear to him as his own life and engaged him in the deity worship of Radha Raman.

Srila Gopal Bhatta Goswami became one of the six Goswamis, but he always kept an attitude of meekness and humility. Thus, when Krishna Das Kaviraj approached him for permission to write the Chaitanya Charitamrita he granted it, but under the condition that he not write about him. Krishna Das Kaviraj Goswami could not go against the order of Gopal Bhatta and thus did nothing more than mention his name. Sri Jiva Goswami writes in the introduction to the Sat-sandarbha that he wrote it on the basis of an earlier text by Gopal Bhatta. Srila Gopal Bhatta Goswami also wrote a book called the Sat-kriya-sara-dipika ("Light on the essential sacraments for the Vaishnavas"). Thus his contribution to Gaudiya Vaishnava literature was in editing the Hari-bhakti-vilasa, preparing the notes for Jiva's Sat-sandarbha and in compiling the Sat-kriya-sara-dipika. He also gave great joy to the community of devotees by writing a commentary on Bilvamangala's Krsna-karnamrta.

Amongst his disciples were Srinivas Acharya and Sri Gopinath Pujari. The following story is told about Gopinath Pujari becoming Gopal Bhatta's disciple. One day, Gopal Bhatta went to visit the town of Saharanpur, not far from Hardwar. On that occasion, a simple, devoted Brahmin engaged in his service in a most unpretentious manner. He had no children, but desired to have a son. Srila Gopal Bhatta Goswami knew the desire of the Brahmin and blessed him that he would have a devotionally-minded male child. The Brahmin promised Gopal Bhatta that he would give him his first son to be his servant and disciple. This son was Gopinath Pujari.

It is said that Mahaprabhu had such affection for Gopal Bhatta that he sent him his own belt and kaupin as well as a wooden seat he had used. These items are still worshipped in the Radha Raman temple by the current sevakas.

Sri Sri Radha Raman

When Srila Gopal Bhatta Goswami was visiting the pilgrimage centers of northern India, he found a Shalagram Sila on the banks of the Gandaki River. He took the worshipable stone form and carried it with him wherever he went, attending to it as a Vrajendranandan Krishna Himself. One day he thought that he would like to worship the Lord in a deity form, so that he could expand his service. On the very next day, he found that the Shalagram Sila had transformed itself into Radha Raman to fulfill the wish of his devotee. This deity stands alone without any form of Radha standing by His side. Instead, as a symbol of Radharani, a silver crown is placed on His left side.

The story is also told in the following way. It is said that Srila Gopal Bhatta Goswami used to daily worship twelve Shalagrams. He developed a desire to serve the Lord in the form of a deity, thinking that in this way he would be able to worship him in a much better way. The Lord within his heart knew his feelings. Through a rich merchant, he was provided with many beautiful items used in the worship of the deity, such as ornaments and clothes, sent to him. Gopal began to worry that all these beautiful objects would be wasted because there was no way that he could use them unless he had a deity in human form. That night, he put the Shalagrams to rest and in the morning he saw that one of them had been transformed into the Radha Raman deity.

When Rupa and Sanatan heard that Krishna had so mercifully appeared to Gopal Bhatta, they immediately came with the other devotees for darshan, and when they saw him, they were ecstatic with love. The annual festival commemorating Radha Raman's appearance, when He is bathed publicly, takes place on the full moon day of Vaishakh. The Radha Raman temple is considered one of the most important in Vrindavan.

Srila Gopal Bhatta Goswami ended his earthly pastimes on the Krsna pancami of Asharh of 1507 of the Saka Radha Raman temple. By reading Srinivas Acharya's hymn to the six Goswamis, Sad-gosvamy-astaka, we can understand their glories.

Excerpted from "Sri Chaitanya: His Life & Associates" by Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Maharaj
Mandala Publishing 2001.


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