Sri Sanatana Gosvami appeared in 1488, five years before Sri Rupa Gosvami, in a Sarasvata brahmana family in Bengal. Sanatana and his two brothers, Rupa and Anupama, were always absorbed in bhava bhakti from early childhood. Remembering Vrndavana, they named the forests in which they played after Vraja's twelve forests (Talavana, Madhuvana, Kamyavana, Mahavana). They called their favorite bathing ponds Radha-kunda and Syama-kunda.
In his youth, Sri Sanatana dreamt that a beautiful brahmana boy gave him a Srimad Bhagavatam. Feeling ecstatic he awoke. But seeing neither the boy nor the Bhagavatam he felt sad. When Sanatana began his puja that morning, however, Krishna Himself, disguised as a beautiful brahmana boy, came and said, "Take this Srimad Bhagavatam from Me, always study it, and you will attain perfection."
In Krishna-lila-stava, Sri Sanatana Gosvami glorifies the Srimad Bhagavatam: "0 holy Bhagavata, you are my only company, my only friend, and my guru. You are my greatest treasure and my personal saviour. You are the emblem of my highest fortune and the very form of ecstasy. I offer my obeisances unto you."
Forced to submit to the ruling Muslim government, Sri Rupa and Sri Sanatana became ministers and lived at Ramakeli. But their real engagement was teaching sastras which they learned from Vidyavacaspati, brother of Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya. Pandits and brahmanas from all over India came to study under the two brothers. Sri Rupa and Sanatana were acclaimed as the "crest jewels of the Gaudiya Vaisnava scholars." After the Lord visited Ramakeli and freed them, they renounced everything for Lord Gauranga's service. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu ordered Sri Rupa and Sanatana Gosvamis to move to Vrndavana and perform four services: (1) Uncover Sri Krishna's pastime places. (2) Install Deities, arrange for Their puja. (3) Compile bhakti scriptures. (4) Propagate the rules of devotional life. "Entering Lord Caitanya's service, they resolutely gave up power, riches, and position to live in Vrndavana as humble beggars absorbed in bhajana. One cannot properly perform Krishna bhajana until one renounces all attachments both internally and externally, and adopts a life of simplicity and humility." (Sri Vraja Mandala Parikramd).
They traveled extensively through Vraja mandala discovering many lila sthanas [pastime places] of Radha-Madhava. Having no fixed residence, they would catch a few winks of sleep (no more than one and a-half hours per day) under a tree or bush. Sri Rupa and Sri Sanatana Gosvamis spent all their time writing, discussing Krishna's pastimes, and chanting Krishna's holy names.
To maintain himself Sanatana would beg some wheat flour, roll it into a ball by adding a touch of Yamuna water, and drop it in smoldering coals to cook. He would offer this bati (salt-free, baked bread ball) to his Deity of Madana Mohana. Giving up all kinds of material enjoyment, the Gosvamis accepted the poorest way of life as mendicants. They ate just enough to maintain their bodies.
The Radha-Madana Mohana mandir established by Sanatana Gosvami was the first one opened in Vrndavana by the six Gos-vamis. Described as "the personal extension of the body of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu," Sri Sanatana is the ideal spiritual master because he gives one shelter at the lotus feet of Madana Mohana. The three Vrndavana Deities (Madana Mohana, Govindaji and Gopinatha) are the life and soul of the Gaudiya Vaisnavas. The Deity of Madana Mohana has the specific quality of helping the neophyte devotees understand their eternal relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krishna.
"Madana Mohana" means Krishna who is so indescribably beautiful that He even attracts Cupid, Kamadeva. Sanatana Gosvami is the sambandha acarya who gives us knowledge of our proper relationship with Krishna, And his Deity, Madana Mohana, helps us overcome our attraction for material sense gratification (Cupid) and fix our minds on devotional service.
Sri Sanatana Gosvami spent forty-three years wandering from village to village in Vrndavana. The Vrajavasis would affectionately care for him treating him like their father. With patience and concern he listened to their problems. Then he would please all the villagers by his preaching and practical advice on everything from increasing crop yields to solving family quarrels.
"Renouncing all worldly pleasures, Sanatana Gosvami was humble, detached, always absorbed in study. Mahaprabhu often said that Sanatana Gosvami was His favorite devotee. As an ocean of love and mercy, Sanatana excelled all other devotees in his compassion toward the suffering souls." (Bhakti-ratnakar)
In his last years, he left his beloved Deity of Madana Mohana with Krishna Dasa brahmacari, his disciple. He did bhajana on the banks of Manasi Ganga next to Cakalesvara Mahadeva at Govardhana. Daily he walked the twenty-four mile parikrama (original longer route) of Govardhana Hill. Although he was sixty-five years old, he kept his daily vow of offering 1,008 obeisances to Govardhana Hill and to any Vaisnava whom he met.
Understanding the difficulty of His pure devotee, Sri Madana Mohana appeared one day and said, "Baba! you are too old. Don't take so much trouble to walk around Govardhana Hill everyday."
Sanatana replied, "This is one of the daily activities of my bhajana: I must maintain it."
"Since you are old," said Madana Mohana, "you may now give up this vow."
Starting to walk again, Sanatana replied, "I will never give up my religious principles."
Sanatana Gosvami's firm determination to complete his daily devotional vow pleased Sri Madana Mohana (Krishna). But in the loving dealings between the Lord and His pure devotee, Krishna's desire to please His devotee often defeats the devotee's desire to please Him. So out of loving compassion for His devotee, Sri Krishna stood on a large flat stone (Govardhana sila) taken from Giriraja. He played His irresistable flute. The Govardhana sila melted in ecstasy, capturing the impression of Krishna's lotus feet.
Presenting this to Sanatana, Krishna said, "If you circumambulate this sila everyday it will be the same as going around Govardhana Hill everyday. You will keep your vow intact and not compromise your religious principles." Seeing that Giriraja Himself (Sri Krishna) had given the sila, Sanatana Gosvami gratefully accepted. One can still see that Govardhana sila in the Radha Damodara temple.
Sri Bhaktivinoda Thakura said in Jaiva Dharma: "Sanatana Gosvami was empowered to explain the esoteric aspects of Krishna's manifest and unimanifest Vraja lilas." Sanatana Gosvami made a significant literary contribution to the Gauidya sampradaya with his Hari-bhakti-vilasa, Brhad-Bhagavatamrta, and Brhad- Vaisnava-tosani.
In the form of Labanga manjari Sanatana Gosvami serves Srimati Visakha sakhi in Radha-Madhava's nitya nikunja-lila. Sanatana Gosvami's samadhi is behind Radha Madana Mohana's temple.
apayayan mam anabhipsum andham
krpambudhir yah para-duhkha-duhkhi
sanatanas tam prabhum asrayami
[Raghunatha dasa Goswami has glorified Sanatana Goswami as follows in his Vilapa Kusumanjali (6)] “I was unwilling to drink the nectar of devotional service possessed of renunciation, but Sanatana Goswami, out of his causeless mercy, made me drink it, even though I was unable to do so. Therefore he is an ocean of mercy. He is very much compassionate to fallen souls like me, and thus it is my duty to offer my respectful obeisances unto his lotus feet and take shelter of him.”
The transcendental position of Sanatana Goswami is glorified in the Gaura-Ganodesha-Dipika of Shri Kavi Karnapura (181):
"Rupa Manjari's closest friend, who was known by the names Rati-Manjari and Lavanga Manjari, appeared in the pastimes of Shri Chaitanya mahaprabhu as Shri Sanatana Goswami, who was considered to be a personal extension of the body of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu."
Sanatana Goswami's literary contribution to the Gaudiya Vaishnava Sampradaya is paralleled only by Rupa and Raghunath Das Goswami. The most important of the scriptures he compiled are the Hari-bhakti-Vilasa, the Brihad-bhagavatamrita, his Dasama-tippani commentary on Shrimad-Bhagvatam, also known as the Brihad-Vaishanva-Toshani, and the Dashama-charita.
Shri Jiva Goswami gives the following account of the ancestorial line of his uncle, Sanatana Goswami in the conclusion of his Laghu-Vaishnava-toshani, a commentary on the Bhagavata: Sarvajna was a Yajur Vedik brahmana descended from the dynasty of the sage Bharadvaja Muni, and as such was the most respectable brahmana of Karnataka. He became the king of the region in 1381 A.D. He was so learned that he was known as "Jagad-guru" or world-teacher. His son was Aniruddha, who became king in 1416 A.D. Aniruddha had two queens and two sons, Rupeshvara and Harihara. Rupeshvara was expert in all the branches of the sacred shastra. His brother Harihara was expert in the scriptures concerning royal politics and was also highly educated. Rupeshvara left Karnataka for Paurastya with his wife. He was well-versed in many branches of learning. There, he became the friend of the king, Raja Shri Shekhareshvar. Rupeshvara's son was Padmanabha, who was a great pandit in the Vedic scriptures. Padmanabha settled at Navahatta, (Naihatti) on the banks of the Ganges in Bengal. He had eight daughters and five sons. All his sons were expert in the scriptures. The names of his sons were Purushottama, Jagannatha, Narayana, Murari, and Mukundadeva. His youngest son, Mukunda, moved to Fateyabada near Jessore in Bakla Chandradwip Paragana. Shri Mukunda deva's son was Shri Kumara Deva. He had many children. In their midst were Shri Rupa, Shri Sanatana and Shri Anupama or Vallabha. They were all great Mahabhagavata devotees of the Lord."
Shri Sanatana Goswami was born in 1488. Rupa Goswami was born in 1493.
Rupa and Vallabha (Anupama) were educated in a village called Sakurma near the capital of Gauda (Bengal) and lived in their maternal uncle's house when their father died. Sanatana was Kumaradeva's eldest son. Rupa was his second son. Vallabha was his youngest son. Jiva was Vallabha's only son. Sanatana and Rupa were the names given by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to the two brothers when they later became his disciples. Their former names are not known. Some say that their original names were Amara and Santosha respectively.
The ruler of Bengal, Hussain Shah, heard from pious men about the qualifications of Rupa and Sanatana. Having herad their glories, the Shah wanted to appoint them to positions in his regime. Out of fear of the Yavana king, they were forced to accept. At that time it was not unusual for Hindus to accept posts in the government of the Muslim king. Among those Hindus who had accepted posts in the government of the Shah were many great devotees. Among them were Keshava Vasu Khan, who served the Shah as a City Magistrate or Police Commisioner in Bengal. Gopinatha Vasu and Purandara Khan served as Prime Ministers. Shri Mukunda Kaviraja was a doctor. Keshava Chatri was a Royal Diplomat and Counsel to the King. Sanatan became known as Sakara Mallik and was appointed Private Secretary. Mullik means"Lord" and was a title often given by the Muslims to respectable and wealthy families with intimate government ties. Rupa became known as Dabir Khas, and was appointed Revenue Officer and Secretary of Treasury by Hussain Shah, the king of Gauda. Shri Vallabha, or Anupama was Chief Superintendent of the Royal Mint. They were well-rewarded by the Shah for their services, who saw to it that they were given great riches. According to the Vedic customs, if one associates with Muslim he becomes contaminated and must perform purificatory rituals. Santana Goswami always associated with Muslims without paying much attention to the customs of the day, and as such considered himself to be fallen from his high brahmana caste. He therefore always presented himself as fallen, although this was only a display of his great Vaishnava humility for which he was celebrated in the Chaitanya Charitamrita and praised by Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu himself.
Shri Rupa and Sanatana made their headquarters in Ramakeli, which had been established as the Capitol of Bengal in 1486 by Sultan Barbak. At present, Ramkeli is located in the Maldah district of West Bengal, near the border of Bengal on the Ganges, and is about five miles from the Maldah railway station. Ramkeli was also the home of many famous devotees, including Shri Nrishinga, the son of Advaita Acharya.
From within and without Bengal many greatly learned scholars and brahmanas used to come to see Rupa and Sanatan in their homes. From Karnataka came many brahmanas who settled near the house of Rupa and Sanatan. Their residential home was near the banks of the Ganges near a town calld Bhattavari. From Nabadwip Dham many brahmanas and pandits also came to Ramakeli to serve Rupa and Sanatana in different ways.
Shri Rupa and Sanatana were accomplished scholars—they were the crest jewels of the Gaudiya Vaishnava scholars. Their teacher in philosophy and scripture had been the brother of the great Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya—Vidyavachaspati, who taught Sanatana Goswami all the Vedic scriptures. His devotion to Vidyavachaspati cannot be described. Vidyavachaspati would often stay in Ramakeli.
The three brothers, Sanatana, Rupa, and Anupama were absorbed in Bhava-bhakti from early childhood. Remembering Vrindavana they used to play in the forest of Tamal, Keli-Kadamba, and Tulsi trees that surrounded their childhood home. In the midst of this were ponds they named after Radha Kunda and Shyama Kunda. In this way they were constantly absorbed in rendering service to Shri Madana Mohana. Hearing of the wonderful pastimes of Shri Gaurasundara in nearby Nabadwipa, they were anxious to one day have his darshan. But they were told by their inner voice, "You must be patient. Soon you will have darshan of that great Lord who is the savior of the fallen."
When Shri Sanatana was still young he had an unusual dream. In his dream he saw a brahmana. The brahmana gave him a Shrimad-Bhagavatam. Upon receiving the Bhagavata, Sanatana's hair stood up in ecstasy. His dream broke. When he awoke and saw that the brahmana and the Bhagavata had gone, he became very depressed. The next morning, after he had bathed, while he was seated for worshiping the Lord, a brahmana appeared, carrying the Bhagavata. Standing near Sanatana, the brahmana said, "Take this Bhagavat. Always study it and all perfection will be yours." Saying this, the brahmana gave him the Bhagavat and went away.
Upon receiving the treasure of the holy Bhagavata, Shri Sanatana's ecstasy knew no bounds. From that day on, Shri Sanatana would only study the Bhagavata, leaving aside other scriptures, knowing the Bhagavata to be the essence of all scriptures. In his Krishna-lila-stava, he has written,
madeka bandho matsangin
madguro man mahadhana
man nistaraka madbhagya
madananda namo'stu te
Sanatana Goswami offers his respects to the Bhagavata, by saying: "O holy Bhagavata, you are my only company, my only friend, and my guru. You are my greatest treasure, my personal savior, the emblem of my highest fortune, the very form of ecstasy. I offer my obeisances to you."
When they heard the news that Shri Chaitanya, the life and treasure of Nadia, had taken sannyasa and gone to Puri, Rupa and Sanatana fainted. Having never seen Mahaprabhu in Navadwip, Rupa and Sanatana were despondent upon hearing that he was leaving Bengal forever. At this time they heard a divine voice saying, "Do not be in anxiety. The merciful Shri Gauranga will soon come here." Hearing this divine voice, they were consoled.
After happily spending five years headquartered in Puri, Mahaprabhu wanted to return to Bengal to take darshan of the Ganges and to see his mother, and so he set out for Nabadwipa. The joy of the devotees was boundless; getting the opportunity to see her son after such a long time Sachidevi completely forgot herself. For many days she cooked and Gaurasundara enjoyed her cooking. Mahaprabhu stayed at the house of Advaita in Shantipura for some days and then continued on to Ramkeli Gram. This is recorded in Shri Chaitanya Charitamrita: "When Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu began to proceed from Kuliya toward Vrindavana, thousands of men were with him and all of them were devotees. Wherever the Lord visited, crowds of innumerable people came to see Him. When they saw Him, all their unhappiness and lamentation disappeared. Wherever the Lord touched the ground with His lotus feet, people immediately came and gathered the dirt. Indeed they gathered so much that many holes were created in the road. The Lord eventually arrived at a village named Ramkeli. This village is situated on the border of Bengal and is very exquisite. While performing Sankirtan in Ramakeli grama, the Lord danced and sometimes lost consciousness due to love of God. While he was at Ramkeli-grama, an unlimited number of people came to see His lotus feet. when the Mohammedan King of Bengal heard of Mahaprabhu's influence in attracting innumerable people, he became very astonished and began to speak as follows: "Such a persojn, who is followed by so many people without giving them charity, must be a prophet. I can surely understand this fact." The Mohammedan King ordered the magistrate: "Do not disturb this Hindu prophet out of jealousy. Let Him do His own will wherever He likes."
Mahaprabhu's auspicious visit was welcomed in Ramkeli, where all the devotees became overwhelmed by ecstasy. From all directions came thousands of people to see Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. When the King became a little concrned about this phenomenon and began asking questions about Mahaprabhu, his counselor, Keshava Chatri, who was a devotee, told him, "Yes, I have heard about this mendicant sannyasi. He is begging here and there with three or four followers." The king said, "What are you saying! Thousands and thousands of people follow him wherever he goes." When he heard this, Keshava Chatri smiled a little and intimated that this was a great exaggeration. Hearing the words of Keshava Chatri, the Shah's mind was not pacified. He asked Rupa Goswami about all this. Rupa Goswami said, "Why are you questioning me? Better that you question your own mind. Because you are king of the people, you are the representative of the Supreme Lord. Therefore you can understand better than I who Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is." After hearing this, the Shah was pacified.
Beneath a tree on the banks of the Ganges, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu stopped to rest. He was accompanied only by his most intimate associates. In the evening, Sanatana Goswami and Rupa Goswami arrived there. They met Nityananda and Haridas Thakura who informed Mahaprabhu of their arrival. In great humility, the two of them took bunches of straw between their teeth, and, each binding a cloth around his neck, they ell down like rods before the Lord. Upon seeing Mahaprabhu, Rupa and Sanatan were overjoyed and began to weep out of humility. The Lord asked them to get up and blessed them. They arose and, taking a straw between their teeth, they humbly offered their prayers with folded hands. They said, "All glories to Shri Krishna Chaitanya, the most merciful savior of the fallen souls. All glories to the Lord." Then they submitted themselves, saying, "Sir, we belong to the lowest class of men, and our association and occupation are also of the lowest type. Therefore we cannot introduce ourselves to you. We feel very much ashamed standing here before you. Dear Lord, you have incarnated to deliver the fallen souls. You should consider that in this world there is none so fallen as us. You have delivered the two brothers Jagai and Madhai, but to deliver them You did not have to exert yourself much. the brothers Jagai and Madhai belonged to the brahmana caste, and their residence was in the holy place of Nabadwipa. They never served low-class persons, nor were they accesories to abominable persons. Jagai and Madhai had but one fault—they were addicted to sin. However heaps of sin are burned to ashes simply by Namabhasa: the dim reflection of the holy name. Jagai and Madhai uttered your name in blasphemy, but their utterance of the divine name delivered them. We are millions of times inferior to Jagai and Madhai. We are more degraded, fallen ad sinful than they. Actually, we belong to the caste of meat-eaters, for we are servants of meat-eaters. Because we associate with them we have become the enemy of cows and brahmanas."
In this way, the two brothers humbly submitted that because of their abominable activities they were now bound by the neck and hands by sin and wallowing in the filthy ditch of sense gratification.
They continued their appeal to Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu: "No one in the universe is powerful enough to deliver us. You are the savior of lost souls. Only you can save us. If you deliver such fallen sinners as ourselves, the strength of your mercy will become famous throughout the world. You have come to save the most fallen. We are the most fallen. If you show your mercy to us, then, the power of your mercy will be witnessed by everyone and your mission to save the most fallen will be a great success. Although we are unqualified to receive your mercy, still it is our heart's desire."
Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said, "My dear Dabhir Khasa and Sakara Mallika: you two are my old servants. From this day on your names will be Rupa and Sanatana. Now please give up this display of humility, for it breaks my heart. You have written me many kind and humble letters, from which I could understand all about you. In order to instruct you I sent you a verse that read: 'If a woman has a paramour she will perform her household duties even more carefully before, so that no one will know, all the while thinking of her paramour and relishing that mellow within her heart.' My only business in coming to Bengal was to see the two of you. Everyone asks why I have come to Ramakeli. No one knows that I have come here only to see you. It is well that you have come to visit me. Now you may return to your homes. Have no fear of anything: birth after birth you have been my eternal servants. I am sure that Krishna shall soon deliver you."
The Lord then blessed them by placing his hands on their heads. Sri Rupa and Sri Sanatana then touched the Lord's lotus feet to their heads. When all the devotees saw the Lord's mercy upon Rupa and Sanatana they became joyful and began chanting the holy name of Hari. Many of the Lord's personal associates were there, including Nityananda, Haridas Thakura, Shrivasa Thakura, Gadadhara Pandit, Mukunda, Jagadananda, Murari, and Vakreshvara Pandit. Following the Lord's instructions, Shri Rupa and Shri Sanatana touched the holy feet of all these great devotees, who became exceedingly happy and congratulated the two brothers for attaining the Lord's mercy. At this time Shri Vallabha also received the mercy of the Lord and became known as Anupama. After taking permission from the devotees there, Shri Rupa and Sanatana prepared to depart, but before doing so submitted a proposal before the Lord's lotus feet.
They said, "O Lord, although the Ruler of Bengal, Hussein Shah, has some regard for you, your mission here is now complete; thus we humbly request you to depart, lest some misfortune befall you and the devotees. The king may have some respect for you, but he is a meat-eater and a muslim and as such is naturally inimical to the cows and brahmanas. He cannot be trusted for long. It is our humble consideration that there is no need to go to Vrindavan with such a great crowd. Vrindavan is a place of simplicity and rustic beauty, not pomp and grandeur. We submit that it is best not to make a pilgrimage there with hundreds and thousands of followers. "
After speaking in this way, Shri Rupa and Sanatana offered their respects at the Lord's lotus feet and went home. Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu then made up his mind to leave that village. The following morning he left for Kanai Natashala, where he saw many of the paintings of Krishna's pastimes that were kept on display there. That night he considered Sanatana's proposal not to go to Vrindavan with a big crowd. He thought, "If I go to Vrindavana with so many people, its mellow ambience of simplicity and rustic beauty will be ruined. I should go alone or with one other person to Vrindavan. In that way, my pilgrimage to Vrindavan will be very beautiful." Thinking in this way, the Lord returned to Jagannatha Puri.
The Chaitanya Charitamrita (M.L. 19) describes how Sanatan Goswami managed to free himself from his government duties and escape from prison to join Shri Rupa in Vrindavan. On the plea of illness he left his post to study the Bhagavata with devotees and brahmanas at his home. When a doctor brought this to the Shah's attention, he went to Sanatana and demanded that he accompany him to Orissa. When Sanatana refused he was imprisoned. Sanatana Goswami made use of some money sent by Rupa Goswami and escaped by bribing his jailer. He then left for Benares to meet Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. On the way Sanatan stopped at a hotel with his servant Ishan, and after realizing that the hotel keeper planned to kill them for gold in Ishan's possession, Sanatan made Ishan pay the hotel keeper his last coin, and begged his help to pass through the jungle. The hotel keeper was moved and, being the leader of the local dacoits, helped them through the jungle and over the Hazaribag mountains. Parting company with Ishan, he went on to meet his brother-in-law, Shri Kanta. Seeing that his brother had become a fugitive and a mendicant, Shri Kanta asked Sanatan to stay with him, but Sanatan refused. Upon the departure of Sanatana Goswami, Shri Kanta gave his brother-in-law a fine woolen blanket.
Finally Sanatana reached Benares and met Shri Chaitanya at the house of Chandreshekhara. The Lord ordered him to shave his beard and long hair, and so Sanatana shaved his head and adopted the dress of a babaji, accepting some old cloth from Tapan Mishra. When he could understand that the Lord disapproved of a babaji in the dress of a mendicant wearing a fine and expensive woolen blanket, he traded the blanket to a brahman he met at the Ganges in exchange for a torn quilt. The Lord was pleased by Sanatana's humility and submission and instructed him for some time on the science of devotion.
At that time, he elaborated on the position of the soul in the material world and the soul's constitutional nature as an eternal servant of Krishna. He explained the different energies of Krishna—svarupa-shakti, maya-shakti, and tatastha-shakti. He described the relative positions of karma, jnana and bhakti by relating the parable of Sarvajna, the astrologer. He showed how that all scriptures have Krishna and his service as their aim. At that time Shri Chaitanya described the consitutional position of Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He discussed all the different forms, features, plenary expansions, and avatars of the Lord. He explained the spiritual worlds of Goloka and Vaikuntha, and described the Lord's opulence in Vaikutha and his sweetness in Vrindavana. the illusion of Brahma was discussed. After this Chaitanya Mahaprabhu described the means of attaining Krishna Prema. He described the two kinds of jivas and explained how karma,jnana, and yoga divorced from bhakti are useless. He described the six kinds of surrender and showed the worthlessness of Varnashram devoid of Krishna. He spoke of the divine mercy of Krishna and explained how Krishna appears as diskha-guru, shiksha-guru, and chaitya-guru in order to enlighten the surrendered souls. He explained the development of faith, the three gradations of devotees, the twenty-six qualities of a pure Vaishnava and the three characteristic features of a true Vaishnava. Kindess as a primary feature of Vaishnavas was described, using the examples of Haridasa Thakura and Vasudeva Datta. Mahaprabhu explained that association with sadhus is indispensable to Krsihna-bhakti and Krishna-preama, where bad association is detrimental to the growth of divine love. The meaning of surrender and self-abnegation were discussed, as were the characteristic features of a liberated soul.
At that time Mahaprabhu explained the two divisions of sadhana-bhakti: Vaidhi-Sadhana-Bhakti and Raganuga-Sadhana-Bhakti. The sixty-four branches of sadhana-bhakti were described with special emphasis on the five most important: association with devotees, chanting of the holy name, hearing Shrimad-Bhagvatam, deity worship, and living in a holy place. The nine different methods of devotion and the devotees who attained perfection in each of them were discussed. After this the internal and external development of raganuga-sadhana-bhakti was explained. After this bhava-bhakti and prema-bhakti were discussed along with the nine stages of sadhana, the characteristics of a bhava-bhakta and the characteristics of a prema-bhakta. At this time, the Lord explained the Sixty-four qualities of Krishna, the meaning of true and false renunciation. He explained the essential importance of associating with saints and, by way of illustration, told the story of Narada and the hunter. In this way, Shri Chaitanya mahaprabhu explained the transcendental position of Krishna, the nature of the jiva, the nature of devotional service, and the ultimate perfection of love of Godhead. He also explained the atmarama verse of Shrimad Bhagavatam in sixty-one different ways.
After enlightening Sanatana in all the truths of bhakti, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu ordered him to write books on devotional service, to establish the proper practices and behavior for devotees, to install deities and reveal the proper methods of deity worship, and to excavate the lost holy places of pilgrimage in Vrindavana.
The Books of Sanatana Goswami
Among the important books compiled by Sanatana Goswami is the Hari-Bhakti-Vilasa, which explains the proper duties and correct behavior for Vaishnavas. In the Chaitanya-charitamrita, Krishna dasa Kaviraja Goswami records Mahaprabhu's instructions to Sanatana on compiling Hari-Bhakti-Vilasa. Kaviraja Goswami writes (CC ML 29.326-345): "Folding his hands, Sanatana Goswami said, 'My Lord, you ordered me to write a directory about the activities of Vaishnavas. I am a most lowborn person. I have no knowledge of good behvior. How is it possible for me to write authorized directions about Vaishanva activities?' Sanatana Goswami then requested the Lord, 'Please personally tell me how I can write this difficult book about Vaishhava behavior. Please manifest yourself within my heart. If you would please manifest yourself within my heart and personally direct me in writing this book, then, although I am lowborn, I may hope to be able to write it. You can do this because You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead Yourself, and whatever You direct is perfect.'
"Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu replied, 'Whatever you want to do you will be able to do correctly by Lord Krishna's favor. He will manifest the real purport. Because you asked me for a synopsis, please hear these few indications. In the beginning one must take shelter of a bona fide spiritual master. In your book there should be the characteristics of the bona fide guru and the bona fide disciple. Then, before accepting a spiritual master, one can be assured of the spiritual master's position. Similarly the spiritual master can also be assured of the disciple's position. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, should be described as the worhsipable object, and you should consider the bija-mantra for the worship of Krishna, Rama or any other expansion of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. You should discuss the qualifications necessary for receiving a mantra, the perfection of the mantra, the purification of the mantra, initiation, morning duties, remembrance of the Supreme Lord, cleanliness, and washing the mouth and other parts of the body. In the morning one should regularly brush his teeth, take his bath, offer prayers to teh Lord and offer obeisances to the spiritual master. One should render service to the spiritual master and paint one's body in twelve places with tilaka. One should stamp the holy names of the Lord on his body, or one should stamp the symbols of the Lord, such as the disc and club. After this, you should describe how one should decorate his body with gopicandana, wear neck beads, collect tulasi leaves from the tulasi tree, cleanse his closth and the altar, cleanse one's own house or apartment and got to the temple and ring the bell just to draw the attention of Lord Krishna. Also describe Deity worship, wherein one should offer food to Krishna at least five times daily. One should in due time place Krishna on a bed. you should also describe the process for offering arati and the worship of the Lord according to the list of five, sixteen, of fifty ingredients. The characteristics of the Deities should be discussed as well as the characteristics of the shalagrama shila. One should also discuss visiting the Deities in the temple and touring holy places like Vrindavana, Mathura and Dvaraka. You should glorify the holy name and explain the importance of carefully giving up offenses when chanting the holy name. You should explain the symptoms of a Vaishnava and how to give up all kinds of seva-aparadha, offenses in Deity worship. The items of worship, such as water, conchshell, flowers, incense and lamp, should be described. You should also mention chanting softly, offering prayers, circumambulating, and offering obeisances. All these should be carefully studied. Other items to be considered are the method of performing purascharana,taking Krishna-prasada, giving up the eating of unoffered food and not blaspheming the Lord's devotees. One should know the symptoms of a devotee and how to associate with devotees. One should know how to satisfy the devotee by rendering service, and one should know how to give up the association of nondevotees. One should also regularly hear the recitation of Srimad-Bhagvatam. You should describe the ritualistic duties of every day, and you should describe the fortnightly duties—especially observing Ekadashi fast, which comes every fortnight. You should also describe the duties of every month, especially the observance of cermonies like Janmastami, Ramanavami and Nrsimha-caturdasi. You should recommend the performance of pure Ekadashi. Whatever you say about Vaishanva behavior, the establishment of Vaishnava temples and Deities and everything else should be supported by evidence from the Puranas. You should give general and specific instructions of the behavior and activities of a Vaishnava. You should outline things that are to be done and things that are not to be done. All this should be described as regulations and etiquette. I have thus given a synopsis of the Vaishanva regulative principles. I have given this in brief just to give you a little direction. When you write on this subject, Krishna wil help you by spiritually awakening you."
Hari-Bhakti-Vilasa is based on notes collected by Gopal Bhatta Goswami and is known as a vaishnava srmiti. If one examines its content, one will see that its content closely conforms to the instructions given Sanatana Goswami by Shri Chaitanya. Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami summarizes its contents as follows:This vaishnava-smriti-grantha was finished in twenty chapters, known as vilasas. In the first vilasa there is a description of how a relationship is established between the spiritual master and the disciple, and mantras are explained. In the second vilasa, the process of initiation is described. In the third vilasa, the methods of Vaishanva behavior are given, with emphasis on cleanliness, constant remembrance of of the Supreme Personality fo Godheaed, and the chanting of the mantras given by the initiating spiritual master. In the fourth filasa are descriptions of samskara, the reformatory method; tilaka, the application of twelve tilakas on twelve places of the body; mudra, marks on the body; mala, chanting with beads; and guru-puja, worship of the spirtiual master. In the fifth vialasa, one is instructed on how to make a place to sit for meditaqtion, and there are descriptions of breathing exercises, meditation and worship of hte shalagram-shila representation of Lord Vishnu. In the sixth vilasa, the required practices for inviting the transcendental form of the Lrod and bathing Him are given. In the seventh vilasa, one is instructed on how to collect flowers used for the worship of Lord Vishnu. In the eight vilasa, there is a description of the Deity and instructions on how to set up incense, light lamps, make offerings, dance, play music, beat drums, garland the Deity, offer prayers and obeisances and counteract offenses. In the ninth vilasa, there are descriptions of the devotees of the Lord (Vaishnavasa or saintly persons). In the eleventh vilasa, there are elaborate descriptions of Deity worship and the glories of the holy name of the Lord. One is instructed on how to chant the holy name of the Deity, and there are discussions about offenses committed while chanting the holy name, along with methods for getting relief from such offenses. There are also descriptions of the glories of devotional service and the surrendering process. In the twelfth vilasa, Ekadashi is described. In the thirteenth vilasa, fasting is discussed, as well as observance of the Maha-dvadashi ceremony. In the fourteenth vilasa, different duties for different months are outline. In the fifteenth vilasa, there are instructions on how to observe Ekadashi fasting without even drinking water. There are also descriptions of branding the body with the symbols of Vishnu, and discussions of Caturmasya observations during the rainy season, and iscussions of Janmashtami, Parsviakadashi, Shravana-dvadashi, Rama-navami, and Vijayi-dashami. The sixteenth vilasa discusses duties to be observed in the month of Karttika (October-November), or the Damodara month, or Urja, when lamps are offered in the Deity room or above the temple. There are also descriptions of the Govardhana-puja and Ratha-yatra. The seventeenth vilasa discusses preparations for Deity worship, maha-mantra chanting and the process of japa. In the eighteenth vilasa the different forms of Shri Vishnu are described. The nineteenth vilasa discusses the establishment of the Deity and the rituals observed in bathing the Deity before installation. The twentieth vilasa discusses the construction of temples, referring to those constructed by the great devotees. Shri Santana Goswami's commentary on Hari-Bhakti-Vilasa is called the Dig-Darhsini-Tika. Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada writes of Hari-Bhakti-Vilasa: “Another famous book by Sanatana Goswami is the Hari-bhakti-vilasa, which states the rules and regulations for all divisions of Vaishnavas, namely Vaishnava householders, Vaishnava brahmacaris, Vaishnava vanaprasthas and Vaishnava sannyasis.“ Prabhupada notes, “This book was especially written, however, for Vaishnava householders.”
Among the most important books compiled by Sanatana Goswami is the Brihad-Bhagavatamritam. Whereas the Hari-Bhakti-Vilas expands on Mahaprabhu's teachings to Sanatana regarding Vaishanva behavior and ritual, Brihad-Bhagavatamrita analyses the ontology and metaphysics of Mahaprabhu's teachings. In Brihad-Bhagavatamritam, Sanatana Goswami records the conversation that took place between Pariksit Maharaja and his mother Uttara after he had heard the Bhagavata from Shukadeva. She asks him to explain the gist of the Bhagavatam, and Pariksit Maharaja begins by telling the story of Narada's search for the most fortunate and intimate devotee of Krishna. This part of the conversation reveals the gradation of intimacy in devotional service. Progressing from those devotees whose bhakti is mixed with karma (Brahma) and jnana (Shiva), Narada progresses to shanta-rasa (Prahlada) dasya-rasa (Hanuman) sakhya-rasa (Arjuna) and finally to Krishna's dearmost devotee Uddhava, who aspires for a position in Vrindavan and who reveals the love of the gopis for Krishna as the last word in bhakti.
Part Two of Brihad-Bhagavtamrita reveals the story of gopa-kumara, an errant cowherd boy who, having received mantra initiation from a resident of Vrindavan, passes through one planetary system after the next, exploring different levels of consciousness in a spritual odyssey that takes him from earth, through the heavenly planets to Brahmaloka, Viraja, the brahmajyoti, Shivaloka, Vaikuntha, Ayodhya, Dwarka, Mathura, and finally Goloka, where he realizes his eternal position in the pastimes of Krishna in sakhya rasa. In Brihad-Bhagavatamritam there are descriptions of devotees, intimate devotees, most intimate devotees and complete devotees. About this book, Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada writes (CC Adi 5.203), “Sri Santana Gosvami Prabhu, the teacher of the science of devotional service, wrote several books, of which the Brhad-bhagavatamrta is very famous; anyone who wants to know about the subject matter of devotees, devotional service and Krishna must read this book.” According to Sri Bhaktivedanta Swami, "The second part describes the glories of the spiritual world, known as Goloka-mahatmya-nirupana, as well as the process of renunciation of the material world. It also describes real knowledge, devotional service, the spiritual world, love of Godhead, attainment of life's destination and the bliss of the spiritual world. In this way there are seven chapters in each part, fourteen chapters in all." Sanatana Goswami Prabhu also represents the teachings of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in his commentary on Shrimad-Bhagavatam. Of this commentary, Sri Bhaktivedanta Swami writes, "Dasama-tippani is a commentary on the Tenth Canto of Shrimad-Bhagavatam. Another name for this commentary is Brihad-vaishnava-toshani-tika. In the Bhakti Ratnakara it is said that Dasama-tippani was finished in 1476 Sakabda...Sanatana goswami gave his [Brihad] Vaishanva-tosani commentary to Srila Jiva Goswami for editing, and Shrila Jiva Goswami edited this under the name of Laghu-tosani. Whatever he immediately put down in writing was finished in the year 1476 Saka. Jiva Goswami completed Laghu-tosani in the year Sakabda 1504. Sanatana Goswami also composed Krishna-lila-stava which is known as Dashama-charit and describes the pastimes of Krishna up to Mathura.” Elsewhere (CC Adi 5.203) Srila Prabhupada writes of Dasama-tipanni, “Sanatana Goswami also wrote a special commentary on the Tenth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam known as the Dasama-tipanni, which is so excellent that by reading it one can understand very deeply the pastimes of Krsna in His exchanges of loving activities.”
After meeting with Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and receiving the instructions that would form the basis for the scriptures he would later compile, Sanatana Goswami went to Vrindvan by the main road, and when he reached Vrindavan he met Subuddhi Raya. When he arrived in Vrindavan, he found that Rupa Goswami had already left. He then went to Jagannatha Puri through Jharikhanda, the Uttara Pradesh jungle. After contracting a skin disease he felt to be offensive to the Lord's touch, he decided to give up his life by falling beneath the wheels of the Jaganatha Ratha-Yatra cart, but Chaitanya Mahaprabhu expressed his disapproval of suicide and saved Sanatana through his mercy. Later Sanatana Goswami met Haridas Thakura and heard from him of the disappearance of his brother Anupama.
The Chaitanya Charitamrita records how, while in Jagannatha Puri, Sanatana Goswami described the glories of Haridasa Thakura. When Jagadananda Pandit granted Sanatana permission to leave for Vrindavan, Shri Chaitanya disapproved, and glorified the qualities of Sanatana Goswami, ordering Sanatana Goswami to remain in Jagannatha Puri for a year. Later, when Jagadananda Pandit went to Vrindavan, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu put him under the guidance of Sanatana Goswami. At that time, Jagadananda Pandit became angry with Sanatana for wearing a turban made from a piece of red cloth given him by a sannyasi other than Shri Chaitanya, but was pacified by Sanatana's deep devotion. (At that time, Sanatana remarked that red cloth is unfit for Gaudiya Vaishnava Sannyasis, since it is worn by the Mayavadi followers of Shankaracarya's impersonal school. Since that time, out of respect for the words of Sanatana Goswami, Gaudiya Vaishnava Sannyasis have adopted the color saffron for the dress of renunciation.) When Sanatana Goswami finally returned to Vrindavan, he was reunited with Rupa Goswami, and the two of them remained there to execute the orders of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Sanatana Goswami and Madana Mohan
The Bhakti-Ratnakara describes how Sanatana began the worship of his Madana-Mohan deity. Among Mahaprabhu's orders to Sanatana was his instruction to establish the worship of the Deity of Krishna. The Bhakti Ratnakara how Shri Sanantana Goswami, when he was staying in Vrindavan, began the worship of Shri Madana-Mohan, also known as Madana Mohana. In Mahavana, nearby Krishna's birthplace in Vrindavana, Sanatana Goswami made a hut of grass. There he would perform his daily bhajan. One day, as he went out begging, he came to a small village on the banks of the Yamuna. At that time Madana Mohana Dev was playing on the side of the river with some small gopa boys. When he saw Santana, he cried out, "O Father! Baba!" With this, he came running after Santana Goswami and grabbed hold of his hand, saying, "Take me with you. I want to go with you."
"Little boy, why do you want to go with me?"
"I want to stay with you."
"If you stay with me, what will you eat?"
"What do you eat?"
"Only some dry chapatis and coarse rice."
"Then I will also eat that, Baba."
"Even if you could eat like that, you can't stay with me. You must stay with your mother and father."
"But, Baba! I want to stay with you."
Making the boy understand his wishes, Sanatana sent him home, and then continued his begging rounds.
That night, the boy appeared to him in a dream. In the dream, the boy was laughing again and again. He took hold of Sanatana's hand and told him, "Baba! My name is Madana Mohana. Tomorrow I shall come to you." Saying this, Madana Mohana disappeared, and with this Sanatana awoke. He was so overcome by ecstasy that he felt as if his soul had been stolen from his body. He thought, "What have I seen? I have never seen such a beautiful boy. His mind was filled with remembrance of Shri Hari. When he opened the door to his kutir, he found that standing in the doorway was a wonderful murti of Shri Madana Mohanaa. That deity was so beautiful that it filled the four directions with its effulgence.
Sanatana Goswami was stunned for some time, but after a while, he came to his senses, and at that time, his eyes filled with tears of ecstasy which gradually wet the earth beneath him. After this, he began the worship of the deity by performing an abhisheka ceremony. When Rupa Goswami saw that wonderful deity, he was filled with prema.
Shri Sanatana used to serve that deity in his own humble grass hut. Shri Rupa Goswami sent word of these auspicious events to Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in Jagannatha Puri by messenger.
After begging all day, Shri Sanatana Goswami would return to his grass hut in the evening and offer some dry chapatis to his deity, Madana-Gopala. Sometimes he would also prepare some shak or other vegetables to go with it. In any case, he would never prepare any vegetables with oil or salt. Most of the time he could only offer chapatis. As a result, Sanatana would become sorrowful, thinking himself unfit to properly worship the deity. But he couldn't afford it, because Chaitanya Mahaprabhu had given him a service: to compose devotional scriptures. At the same time he had to spend all day collecting alms. When could he find the time to go out and beg for oil and salt? Shri Sanatana Goswami's mind was filled with grief. As Paramatma, the Lord knew Sanatana's mind. Madana Mohanaa thought to himself, "I am eating dry chapatis, and Sanatana's mind is very unhappy as a result. He wants to serve me in royal style. As a result he feels that his service is of no use.
At that time there was a wealthy merchant of the kshatriya caste named Shri Krishna Das Kapoor. He was on his way to Mathura to do some business. He was coming down the Yamuna in a big boat. When his boat became stuck on a sandbar, and he could see no way to continue, he began to think "What can we do now?" At that time Krishna das Kapoor heard from the local people that there was a big sadhu living in Vrindavan who could help. His name was Sanatana Goswami. When Krishna Dasa Kapoor came to see him, Sanatana was sitting in his hut, writing, wearing only a loincloth, his body lean from austerity and renunciation. Sanatana offered his visitor a grass mat as a seat, and touching Krishna das Kapoor with his hand, bade him sit. At this, Krishna Das Kapoor said, "Baba! give me your mercy."
Sanatana said, "I am only a beggar. What kind of mercy can I give you?"
"I only pray for your blessings. My boat is stuck on a sandbar in the Yamuna river and I can see no way to free it."
"I know nothing about it. Explain it all to Madana Mohana."
Krishna Das Kapoor offered his dandavats before the Madana Mohana deity and said, "O Madana Mohana dev! If you give me your mercy and free my boat, then whatever profit I make from this business I will give it to you for your seva."
With this prayer, Kapoor asked permission to leave. That day a big storm came and rain poured from the heavens, raising the level of the Yamuna's waters. As the waters grew higher and higher, Kapoor's boat was freed from the sandbar and began making its way down the Yamuna. Krishna das Kapoor could understand that this was all the mercy of Madana Mohana. He had made a handsome profit on his cargo, and donated it all to build a lavish temple for Shri Madana Mohana, including a bhogashala where first-class edibles could be stored for the pleasure of the Lord. From that time on, Madana Mohana was served in royal style. Seeing this royal service of Madana Mohana, Sanatana Goswami became very happy. Soon after this, Sanatana Goswami accepted Krishna das Kapoor as his disciple and gave him initiation. The Madana Mohan temple still stands today, and is an important place of pilgrimage for all Gaudiya Vaishnavas.
In discussing the importance of the Madana Mohan Deity, Bhaktivedanta Swami writes, "Srila Sanatana Goswami is the ideal spiritual master, for he delivers one the shelter of the lotsu feet of Madana Mohana. Even though one may be unable to travel on the field of Vrindavan due to forgetfulness of his relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he can get an adquate opportuinty to stay in Vrindavana and dreive all spiritual benefits by the mercy of Sanatana Goswami." Similarly, Krishna das Kaviraj Goswami prays, "jayatam suratau pangor, mama manda-mater gati, mat-sarvasva-padambhojau, radha-madana-mohanau": Glory to the all merciful Radha-Madana-Mohana! I am lame and ill-advised, yet they are my directors, and Their lotus feet are everything to me." Kaviraja Goswami also says, "These three Deities of Vrindavan [Madana-mohana, the Deity of Sanatana Goswami, Govinda, the deity of Rupa Goswami, and Gopinatha, the Deity of Raghunataha Das Goswami] have absorbed the heart and soul of the Gaudiya Vaishanvas, [followers of Lord Chaitanya]. I worship their lotus feet, for they are the Lods of my heart." (CC AL 1.19) Translating the commentary of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada, Sri Bhaktivedanta Swami writes: "The author of Shri Chaitanya Charitamrita offers his respectful obeisances unto the three Deities of Vrindavan named Shri Radha-madana-Mohana, Shri Radha-Govinda-deva, and Shri Radha-Gopinathaji. These three Deities are the life and sol of the Bengali Vaishanvas, or Gaudiya Vaishanvas, who have a natural aptitude for residing in Vrindavana. The Gaudiya Vaishnavas who follow strictly in the line of Shri Chaitanya Mahrapabhu worhsip the Divinity by chanting transcendental sounds meant to develop a sense of one's transcendental relationship wit the Supreme Lord, a reciprocation of mellows (rasas) of mutual affection, and ultimately, the achievement of the desired success in loving service. These three Deities are worshiped in three different stages of one's development. The followers of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu scrupulously follow these principles of approach.
"Gaudiya Vaishanvas perceive the ultimate objective in Vedic hymns composed of eighteen transcendental letters that adore Krishna as Madana-mohan, Govinda, and Gopijanavallabha. Madana-mohana is He who charms Cupid, the god of love, Govinda is He who pleases the senses and the cows, and Gopijanavallbhais the transcendental lover of the gopis. Krishna Himself is called Madana-mohana, Govinda, Gopijanavallbha and countless other names as He plays in His different pastimes with His devotees.
"The three Deities—MadanaMohana, Govinda, andGopijanavallabha—have very specific qualities. Worhsip of Madana-mohana is on the platform of reestablishing our forgotten relationship wioth the Personality of Godhead. In the beginning of our spiritual life we must worship Madana-mohana so that He may attract us and nullify our attachment for material sense gratification. This relationship with Madana-mohana is necessary for neophyte devotees. When one wishes to render service to the Lord with strong attachment, one then worships Govinda on the platform of transcendental service. Govinda is the reservoir of all pleasures. When by the grace of Krishna and the other devotees one reaches perfeciton in devotional service, he can appreciate Krishna as Gopijanavallabha [Gopinatha], the pleasure Deity of the damsels of Vraja.
"Lord Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu explained this mode of devotional service in three stages, and therefore these worshipable Deities were installed in Vrindavan by different Goswamis. They are very dear to the Gaudiya Vaishnavas there, who visit the temples at least once a day."
Bhaktivedanta Swami gives further understanding on this subject in his introduction to the Chaitanya Charitamrita: "In Chaitanya Charitamrita, Krishnadas first offers his obeisances to Madana-mohan vigraha [Santana Goswami's Deity], the Deity who can help us progress in Krishna consciousness. In the execution of Krishna consciousness, our first business is to know Krishna and our relationship with Him. To know Krishna is to know one's self and to know one's self is to know one's relationship with Him. Since this relationship can be learned by worhsiping Madana-mohana-vigraha, Krishnadas Kaviraj first establishes his relationship with HIm.
"When this is established, Krishnadas begins to worship the functional Deity, Govinda [Rupa Goswami's Deity]. ..Krishnadas Kaviraja Goswami maintains that the Radha and Krishna Deities [Radha-Govinda] show us how to serve Radha and Krishna. The madana-mohana Deities simply establish that "I am your eternal servant." With Govinda, however, there is actual acceptance of service, and therefore he is called the functional Deity. The Gopinatha Deity is Krishna as master and proprietor of the gopis. He attracted all the gopis or cowherd girls by the sound of his flute, and when they came, he dance with them... Krishna is therefore called Gopinatha because He is the beloved master of the gopis."
This progression—Krishna or Madana-Mohana, Radha-Govinda, Radha-Gopinatha—is also found in the three key words of the eighteen syllable Krishna gayatri. This is explained in Jiva Goswami's remarks on the Gayatri mantram, found in his commentary on the Brahma-Samhita which is translated by Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura. There, Jiva Gosami explains that the mantram has six elements, and that "Krishnaysa," in the mantram refers to Krishna-svarupa, or in Srila Bhaktisiddhanta's language, "the proper self of Krishna." [Madana-Mohana]. The second element in the mantram, or the second aspect of Krishan to be revealed [Govinda] is "krishnasya chinmaya vraja-lila-avilasa-svarupa": "the true nature of Krishna's pastimes in Vrindavana. The third aspect of Krishna is Gopijanavallabha, [Gopinatha] Krishna who is dear to the gopis.
It is therefore said that in the mantram "Klim Krishnaya, Govindaya, Gopijanavallabhaya, etc..." "Krishnaya" is Madana-Mohana, the first object of worship represented in sambandha-jnana, whose acharya is Shri Sanatana Goswami. "Govindaya" is the Lord who is surrounded by his intimate serving group. Because Govinda accepts one's service, He is the deity of abidheya-tattva, whose acharya is Rupa Goswami. "Gopijanavallabhaya" in the mantram refers to Gopinatha, the master of the great rasa dance in which all the gopis take part. This represents the ultimate goal, or prayojana, whose acharya is Raghunatha das Goswami. Raghunatha das Goswami, the acharya of the highest goal of life, accepts the lotus feet of Shri Rupa (the abidheaya acharya) as his highest aspiration and thus shows us the path to the highest goal. Rupa Goswami in his turn always offers his respects to Sanatana Goswami (the sambandha acharya), whom he considered to be his spiritual master.
In his commentary on the talks betwen Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Ramananda Raya, Bhaktivinoda Thakura elaborates further on this theme. Bhaktividanta Swami translates his commentary as follows: "In the mantra: klim kamadevaya vidmahe pushpabanaya dhimahi tan no nangah prachodayat, Krishna is called Kamadeva or Madana-mohana, the Deity who establishes our relationship with Krishna. Govinda, or pushpa-bana, who carries an arrow made of flowers, is the Personality of Godhead who accepts our devotional service. Ananaga or Gopijanavallabha, satisfies all the gopis and is the ultimate goal of life." Bhaktivinoda Thakura, in his Anubhashya commentary on Chaitanya Charitamrita, further explains this version on the basis of Jiva Goswami's comments on the Brahma-samhita verse: atha venuninadasya trayimurtimayi gatih, sphuranti praviveshashu mukhabjani sarojajah. This verse describes how the flutesong of Shri Krishna was heard by Brahma as the Gayatri mantram. Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura translates "trayimurti gatih" to mean that the gayatri is "the mother of the three Vedas." Bhaktivinoda explains that in this verse, the words "trayimurti gatih" means that the sound emanating from the flutesong of Shri Krishna, or Gayatri is the basis of sambandha, abhidheya and prayojana. He says that "trimurtimayi" also indicates the three murtis Madana-mohana, Govinda, and Gopinatha. Upon hearing this sound, Brahma became initiated as a twice-born, and became acquainted with the ocean of truth (sambandha, abhidheya, prayojana), after which he uttered the famous "Govinda" prayers beginning with "chintamani prakara-sadmasu." Bhaktivinoda Thakura supports this view by quoting at length from Brahma-Samhita, Jiva Goswami's commentary, Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakrua, and the Gopal Tappani Upanishad, which all corroborate the above version.
It is clear from the above that Sanatana Goswami occupies a special position in the Gaudiya Vaishnava Sampradaya. He is the acharya of sambandha-jnana, or knowledge of our proper devotional relationship with Krishna. Moreover his deity, Madana-mohan, helps us to overcome the influence of the senses and fix our minds in devotional service. Sanatana Goswami's literatures are a storehouse of nectar. His personal example of humility is beyond description. He is an intimate associate of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Radha-Krishna, and the guru of Shrila Rupa Goswami. Let us all pray for the shelter of his lotus feet.
Radharani Appears to Shri Sanatana
In Bhakti-Ratnakara, it is written that one day Sanatana Goswami went to Radha-Kunda to see Shri Rupa and Shri Raghunataha Dasa Goswami. When they saw Sanatana approaching, they rose to offer him respect, and then offered him a seat. With this, the three of them began an ishta-gosthi, a discussion about Krishna. Shri Rupa Goswami had written a Stotram to Radharani called "Chatu-Pushpanjali"—an offering of four flowers. Shri Sanatana Goswami read the verses, and was struck by one in particular:
navagorochana gauri, pravarendi varamvaram,
"O Vrindabaneshvari! I offer my respects unto you. Because your complexion is like newly molten gold, you are known as Gaurangi. Your dress is beautiful like that of a blue lotus. Your long braid of hair resembles a black serpent decorated with jewels." When Sanatana saw the line, "Your braided hair resembles a black serpent..." he thought about this comparison and said, "Is this a logical or reasonable metaphor? To compare Radharani's hair to a serpent?"
That afternoon Shri Sanatana went to Radha Kunda to take his bath. After offering different reverential prayers to the Radha Kunda, he took his bath there. At that time, a little distance from the Kunda, he could see some gopi boysa dn girls playing, at the foot of some trees. As he glanced in their direction, he could just make out that right behind the head of one of the girls was what might have been a long, black, dangling braid, but looked to Sanatana Goswami much more like a deadly snake, swaying back and forth as if ready to strike. At that time he called out, "O young girl! Be careful: there is a snake creeping up on your back!" The young girl, caught up in the joy of her playing, took no notice. Apparently she couldn't hear him. Thereupon he went running up to her and saw that the girl was none other than Shri Radha Thakurani. When the gopas and gopis saw him, they burst out laughing. They laughed and laughed for some time without stopping. Shri Sanatana Goswami was struck dumb. After this, he could understand the logic of Shri Rupa Goswami's metaphor.
Krishna Brings Milk
The Bhakti Ratnakara records how once Shri Sanatana Goswami was alone in the forest on the banks of the Pavana Sarovara performing his bhajan in a secluded place. He had been fasting from food and drink. As he is the supersoul in all living beings, the Lord could understand everything. He thought, "My devotee is starving. I cannot tolerate this." In the dress of a gopa, Krishna entered the forest where Sanatana was staying, carrying a pot of milk. He came before Sanatana and said, "Baba! I have brought you some milk."
Sanatana said, "Why have you brought me milk?"
"You are not eating properly, that's why."
"How did you know that I am not eating anything?"
"Many gopas have come and gone by here. They told me you have not been eating."
"Why didn't they come?"
"They have much work at home, so they sent me."
"You are such a little boy, by have you taken so much trouble for me?"
"No, no, father. It is no trouble at all."
Taking the pot of milk, Sanatana said, "Sit down, little boy. I will finish the milk and give you back your pot."
"No baba. I cannot sit with you. I have to milk the cows. I will come and fetch the pot tomorrow." Saying this, the boy vanished, and Shri Sanatana became speechless. He could understand that all this was the work of Krishna. He began to drown in the tears that poured from his eyes as he drank the milk. From that day on he ate by practicing madhukari, or only accepting a tiny bit from many different residents of Vrindavan. Gradually the residents of Vrindavan built him a kutir so that he could stay there.
Accepting Service from Shri Radha
One day Shri Rupa Goswami wanted to prepare some sweet rice for Sanatana Goswami, but didn't have the necessary provisions for making sweet rice in his kutir. At that time, she who brings about the fulfillment of the inner aspiration of devotees, Shrimati Radha Thakurani, could understand everything. And so, in the dress of a young gopi girl she brought milk, rice, and sugar to Rupa Goswami, saying, "Swamiji! Swamiji! I have brought you a gift of uncooked rice. Please accept it. Hearing the words of the young girl, Shri Rupa Goswami opened the door to his hut and looked out. There he saw a beautiful young gopi maiden with some offerings of food. Rupa Goswami said, "Little girl! Whay have you come here?"
"Swamiji! I have only brought you some simple uncooked food."
"Why have you taken such trouble for me?"
"Baba! What trouble? I have only come to render a humble service to a saintly person."
Accepting the offering of milk, sugar and uncooked rice, Rupa Goswami said, "Young girl please take your seat, while I put these things away." The girl said, "I'm sorry, but I have some work to do." Saying this, the girl disappeared. When Rupa Goswami turned around and saw that she had gone, he was very bewildered by all this. At length, he prepared the sweet rice and offered the bhoga to his deity, Govindadeva. After some time, he gave the prasada to Sanatana Goswami, who had just arrived. While honoring prasada, Sanatana Goswami experienced an unusual and enchanting kind of joy. He asked Shri Rupa, "Where did you get this milk and rice from?" Rupa Goswami said, "A young gopi girl came by and gave it to me." Sanatana said, "A young girl just came by all of a sudden and gave you this milk and rice?" Rupa Goswami replied, "Yes, she just came by all of a sudden. The strange thing is, I was just thinking, 'how can I make some sweet rice for Sanatana,' and she just appeared, as if by magic, with this milk and rice and some sugar." hearing this, tears of prema began falling from the eyes of Sanatana Goswami. He said, "Can't you recognize something when it is right before your eyes? It was Shri Radha Thakurani Herself who has brought you milk and rice. By accepting service from Her we are ruined. Now we shall never attain our desired goal." And in this way, Sanatana Goswami continually condemned himself again and again for having accepted service from that person whom he most aspired to serve: Shri Radha Thakurani. This pastime of Shri Sanatana Goswami is recorded in the Bhakti Ratnakara.
The Bhakti-Ratnakara also records how, every day, Shri Sanatana Goswami would make the four mile pilgrimage around Govardhan hill, but because of his old age this was very troublesome. Still, he did not want to break his religious principles by not circumambulating Govardhan hill. And so he would suffer great physical hardship while circumambulating Govardhan. The Lord knows everything and thus could understand the pain his devotee Sanatana was experiencing. He decided to do something about this. One day, a little gopa boy came to Sanatana and said, "Baba! You are old. Don't go to such trouble to walk around Govardhan hill. Sanatan said, "This one of the regular principles of my bhajan—I must maintain it." The boy said, "Since you are old, you may give now up this rule." Sanatana said, "I will never give up my religious principles." Krishna then told him, "Baba! Won't you honor my words?" Sanatana said, "If it is honorable, then I shall honor it." At that time Krishna presented Sanatana Goswami with a shila, a stone, bearing the meark of his own lotus feet, and said: "This is Govardhan-shila, a piece of stone from Govardhan itself." Sanatana said, "What shall I do with it?" Shri Krishna said, "If you circumambulate this Govardhan-shila, your vow of walking all the way around Govardhan hill every day will remain intact, for by circumambulating this, you cirucmumbulate Govardhan Hill. You will thereby get the same result, keep your vow intact, and not compromise your religious principles." Shri Sanatan Goswami was silenced. He could understand that Giriraja himself had given him this shila. From that day forward, he used to circumambulate the Govardhan-shila marked with the divine marks of the lotus feet of Shri Krishna.
Following the orders of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Shri Rupa and Shri Sanatana Goswami did not climb Govardhana hill because they considered it nondifferent from Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. On some pretext, the Gopal deity granted Shri Chaitanya mahaprabhu an audience beneath the hill, and Gopala similarly favored Shrila Rupa and Sanatana Goswami. During his ripe old age, when Rupa Goswami could not go to Govadhana Hill because of invlaidity, Gopala kindly went to Mathura and remained at the temple of Viththaleshavara for one month. It was then that Shrila Rupa Goswami could see Gopala's beauty to his heart's content.
The activites of Shrila Rupa and Sanatana Goswami while they resided in Vrindavan are described by Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami in the Chaitanya Charitamrita (CC ML 19.128—132) as follows: "The brothers actually have no fixed residence. They reside beneath trees—one night under one tree and the next night under another. Shrila Rupa and Sanatana Goswami beg a little food from the houses of brahmanas. giving up all kinds o material enjoyment, they only take some dry bread and fried chick-peas. They carry only wterpots, and they wear torn quilts. They always chant the holy names of Krishna and discuss his pastimes. In great jubilation, they also dance. They engage almost twenty-four hours daily in rendering service to the Lord. They usually sleep only an hour and a half, and some days, when they continuously chant the Lord's holy name, they do not sleep at all. Sometimes they write transcendental literatures about devotional service, and sometimes they hear about Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and spend their time thinking about the Lord. When the personal associates of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu would hear of the activities of Rupa and Santana Goswamis, they would say, 'What is wonderful for a person who has been granted the Lord's mercy?'"
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