The Disappearance Day of acharya

Parishads: Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti, Sri Pundarika Vidyanidhi, Srila Raghunandana Thakur, and Srila Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami

BY: SUN STAFF - 22.1 2018

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


The Disappearance Day of Visvanatha Cakravarti, and Appearance day of Pundarika Vidyanidhi, Raghunandana Thakur, and Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami are observed on January 21st.


Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura

vishvasya natha-rupo’sau bhakti-vartma-pradarshanat 
bhakta-cakre vartitatvat cakravarty-akhyayabhavat

Because he revealed the path of devotion, he is considered to be identical with the Lord of the Universe, Vishvanath; and because he was predominant in the circle of Vaishnavas, he held the title Chakravarti.

Vishvanath’s birth and disciplic succession

Vishvanath took birth in a family of Rarihiya Brahmins in the village of Devagrama in Nadia district in about 1560 of the Shaka era (1638 AD). Some others suggest 1576 (1656) as his year of birth. The Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana identifies his father as Rama Narayan Chakravarti. His mother’s name is unknown. He had two older brothers, Ramabhadra and Raghunath. His spiritual master was Radharamana Chakravarti, disciple of Krishnacarana Chakravarti. Krishnacarana Chakravarti was a disciple and, according to some, adopted son of Ganga Narayan Chakravarti. Vishvanath has summarized his guru-parampara at the beginning of the Rasa-païcadhyaya section of his Sarartha-darshini commentary on the Srimad Bhagavatam.

shri-rama-krishna-ganga-caranan natva gurun uru-premnah 
shrila-narottama-natha-shrigauranga-prabhum naumi 

In this verse, Radharamana Chakravarti’s name is abbreviated as Rama, Krishnacarana’s name as Krishna, and Ganga Narayan’s name as Ganga. The word natha refers to Lokanatha Goswami, whose guru was Gauranga Mahaprabhu. Thus the entire disciplic succession of Vishvanath has been given in this one single verse.

Vishvanath’s studies and writings

After completing his studies of grammar in Devagrama, Vishvanath went to Saiyadabad in the Murshidabad district to study devotional scriptures from his guru. According to the Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana, Vishvanath was married. Although he was married according to the rites, he never showed the slightest attachment for family life. It is said that he taught his wife the Bhagavat, giving her a taste for its nectar, and instructed her to devote herself to the worship of the Lord before he left home.

Srila Vishvanath Chakravarti Thakur followed the example of Sri Rupa and went to live in Vrindavan where he could dedicate himself to the devotional life. As a result of his commitment to following the orders of his spiritual master, he received many blessings from him. These blessings took shape in his good fortune to be able to live in various spots in Vraja-dham and write a great number of books on Gaudiya Vaishnava subjects, which are considered to be a great treasure by those in the sampradaya. All his books and his commentaries on the Bhagavad-gita and Bhagavat are written in a Sanskrit which is clear and simple, but at the same time full of the nectar of devotion.

In the edition of the Bhagavad-gita published by the Sri Chaitanya Gaudiya Math, the following points are raised under the heading, “A description of the commentary”: “In Gaudiya Vaishnava history, Vishvanath was the guardian and chief teacher of the middle period. Amongst Vaishnavas of our day, a saying has been preserved about three of his works: kirana-bindu-kana, ei tin niye vaishnava-pana -- Vishvanath’s resumes of Rupa Goswami’s Ujjvala-nilamani (Ujjvala-nilamani-kirana), Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu (Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu-bindu), and Laghu-bhagavatamrita (Bhagavatamrita-kana) are the source of transcendental joy for the Vaishnavas; studying them makes one a Vaishnava. After the disappearance of Mahaprabhu’s Vrindavan associates, Srinivas, Narottama and Shyamananda preserved the traditions and expanded the movement in Bengal. Vishvanath is the fourth descendant in the disciplic line from Narottama Das. Few acharyas of the Gaudiya Vaishnava school have been as productive as Vishvanath. Besides writing this large corpus of books, Vishvanath also made two other major contributions, both of which are related to preaching and kirtan.”

Rupa Kaviraj was excommunicated from Vaishnava society. He was the founder of an apasampradaya which taught that only renunciates were eligible to act as acharya, all householders are disqualified. He preached a distorted doctrine of raganuga bhakti which completely negates the value of vidhi-marga, minimizing the importance of hearing and chanting. To the benefit of the general public, Vishvanath has argued against this doctrine in the Sarartha-darshini commentary on the Third Canto of the Bhagavat. Rupa Kaviraj holds that no householder can take the Goswami title. Vishvanath counters this proposition by stating, on the basis of scripture, that any member of a dynasty of gurus who has the proper qualifications is entitled to be called a Goswami, i.e., he can do the work of a guru or acharya. However, to call one’s unworthy children Goswamis simply for the purpose of accumulating wealth and disciples is opposed to the scriptural conclusions and is to be considered unlawful, even if born in a family with a tradition of acting as gurus.

Vishvanath Chakravarti Thakur wrote Bengali songs under the pen-name of Harivallabha Das. Some people say that this name was given to him when he took the vairagi vesha. In all respects, Vishvanath is worthy of superlatives, whether in his expertise in philosophical discourse, his knowledge of the Vaishnava scriptures, or his poetic talent.

The following is a list of the books written by Vishvanath: (1) Vraja-riti-cintamani, (2) Camatkara-candrika, (3) Prema-samputa, (4)Gitavali, (5) Subodhini commentary to Alankara-kaustubha, (6) Ananda-candrika commentary to Ujjvala-nilamani, (7) a commentary on Gopal-tapani Upanishad, (8) Shri-Krishna-bhavanamrita, a maha-kavya, (9) Shri-Bhagavatamrita-kana, (10) Ujjvala-nilamani-kirana-lesha, (11) Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu-bindu, (12) Ragavartma-candrika, (13) Aishvarya-kadambini, which appears to have been lost, (14) Madhurya-kadambini, (15) Bhakti-sara-pradarshini, a commentary on Bhaktirasamrita-sindhu, (16) Ananda-candrika, a commentary on the Ujjvala-nilamani, (17) a commentary on the Danakeli-kaumudi, (18) a commentary on the Lalita-madhava, (19) an incomplete commentary on Chaitanya Charitamrita, (20) a commentary on the Brahma-samhita, (21) Sararthavarshini, a commentary on the Bhagavad-gita, (22) Sarartha-darshini, a commentary on the Srimad Bhagavatam.

He also wrote a number of small works which have been collected as Stavamrita-lahari: (1) Guru-tattvashtaka, (2) Mantra-datri-gurvashtaka, (3) Paramaguror ashtaka, (4) Paratparaguror ashtaka, (5) Parama-paratparaguror ashtaka, (6) Shri-Lokanathashtaka, (7) Shri-Narottamashtaka, (8) Shri-Sacinandanashtaka, (9) Shri-Svarupa-caritamrita, (10) Svapna-vilasamritam, (11) Shri-Gopaladevashtaka, (12) Shri-Madanamohanashtaka, (13) Shri-Govindashtaka, (14) Shri-Gopinathashtaka, (15) Shri-Gokulanandashtaka, (16) Svayam Bhagavadashtaka, (17) Shri-Radhakundashtaka, (18) Jaganmohanashtaka, (19) Anuragavalli, (20) Shri-Vrindadevyashtaka, (21) Shri-Vrindavanashtaka, (22) Shri-Radhika-dhyanamrita, (23) Shri-Rupacintamani, (24) Shri-Nandishvarashtaka, (25) Shri-Govardhanashtaka, (26) Shri-Sankalpa-kalpadruma, (27) Shri-Nikuïja-virudavali, (28) Shri-Surata-kathamrita, and (29) Shri-Shyamakundashtaka.

His student Baladeva

When Vishvanath Chakravarti Thakur was old and hampered in his ability to travel, the acharyas of the Ramanuja sampradaya in the Galta village of Jaipur attempted to convert the King of Jaipur to their school by denying that the Gaudiya school had any historical basis. They accused the Gaudiyas of not having a tie to any one of the four Vaishnava disciplic successions. They advised the King of Jaipur to take initiation from someone in the Ramanuja line. The King was confused by their arguments and asked Vishvanath, who was the most prominent acharya of the Gaudiya school at that time, to come to Jaipur and answer the questions posed by the Ramanuja group. Due to his advanced age, Vishvanath was unable to go, but in his stead he sent his dear student, Baladeva Vidyabhushana to defend the line.

One of the arguments of the Ramanujis was that the Gaudiya school had no commentary of its own on the Vedanta. Baladeva asked the accusers for some time -- seven days according to some, three months according to others -- to write a Gaudiya commentary on Vedanta. He was given the time and then he went to the Govinda temple and prayed to his guru and to the Lord to give him the power to write such a commentary. Govindaji’s garland fell from around his neck and the pujaris placed it on Baladeva chest. Baladeva took this a sign that the Lord had given him authorization.

With the Lord’s blessings, even the impossible becomes possible, and Baladeva undertook the writing of comments to the 500 sutras of the Brahmasutra, completing it in the limited time given him but without neglecting the aesthetic qualities of the Gaudiya tradition in any way. When he went to Galta, the scholars of the other sampradayas were astonished by the quality of Baladeva’s commentary. Because Govindaji himself had ordered its writing, the commentary became known as the Govinda-bhashya. It was after completing this commentary that Baladeva received the Vidyabhushana title.

It is said of Vishvanath that when he wrote the Bhagavat, when it rained, water fell everywhere except the place where he was sitting. Thus, the ink did not run and the text remained intact.

Vishvanath established the service of Gokulananda, and the Gokulanandaji temple stands in Vrindavan. Vishvanath left this world in Radhakunda in ca. 1630 of the Shaka era (1708 AD). The tithi was either the Shukla or Krishna Païcami of the month of Magh.


Sri Pundarika Vidyanidhi

vrishabhanutaya khyatah pura yo vraja-mandale 
adhuna pundarikaksho vidyanidhi-mahashayah 
svakiya-bhavam asvadya radha-viraha-katarah 
caitanyah pundarikaksham aye tatavadat svayam 
prema-nidhitaya khyatim gauro yasmai dadau sukhi 
madhavendrasya shishyatvat gauravam ca sadakarot 
tat-prakasha-vishesho’pi mishrah shri-madhavo matah 
ratnavati tu tat-patni kirtida kirtita budhaih

He who was previously known in Vraja as Vrishabhanu, is known here as Sri Pundarikaksha Vidyanidhi. When Mahaprabhu was in his own mood as Krishna and felt the pain of separation from Radha, he would call him “father!”. Gaurachandra was happy with Pundarika and named him Premanidhi, or “the treasure house of love”. Mahaprabhu always treated him with respect because he was the disciple of Madhavendra Puri. Madhava Mishra is said to be his expansion and his wife Ratnavati was Kirtida in Vraja. (Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 54)

Pundarika Vidyanidhi’s father was named Banesvara and his mother, Ganga Devi. He was born on Vasanta-païcami, the fifth day of the waxing moon in the month of Magh in Chakrashala in Chittagong. His home, or Sripat, used to stand in the village of Mekhala which is two miles east of the Hat Hajari police station, about twelve miles north of the city of Chittagong. Vidyanidhi’s father was a Varendra Brahmin who hailed from the town of Baghiya in the district of Dhaka. Pundarika Vidyanidhi himself was a wealthy zamindar of Chakrashala.

He is a zamindar from Chakrashala, extremely rich and very pure in his actions. He is a Varendra Brahmin, whose lineage is extremely respectable. His name is Sri Pundarika Vidyanidhi. Sometimes he stays in Chittagong, and sometimes in Nabadwip. He is a disciple of Madhavendra Puri. (Prema-vilasa, 22)

The Lord glorifies Pundarika

Sri Pundarika Vidyanidhi came to Nabadwip because he wished to live by the banks of the Ganges. Mahaprabhu, the indweller of all beings, knew prior to his coming that he had such a desire, and one day in the assembly of devotees started calling out, “Pundarika, my friend, my father!” and crying.

When his associates asked him why he was crying in this way, the Lord described Pundarika Vidyanidhi to them in the following way: “His character is quite extraordinary. Just by hearing his name, the whole world is purified, but he dresses and looks just like a materialistic person in the midst of the accouterments of the life of pleasure. No one is able to recognize him as a Vaishnava, yet he remains constantly merged in the deep ocean of devotion for Krishna. He never bathes in the Ganges because he is afraid to touch the holy waters with his feet, which would show disrespect. He only goes to take darshan of the Ganges at night and from a distance. He cannot bear to see people engaged in offensive behavior to the Ganges by gargling, cleaning their teeth, washing their hair in her waters, so he never goes there during the daytime. He never engages in worship of the deity without having taken a drink of Ganges water. He has homes in both Chittagong and in Nabadwip and will soon be arriving here. Because of his apparently materialistic behavior, you will not be able to recognize him, but I feel unwell because I am not able to see him.”

The Supreme Lord has appeared in Nabadwip, but he heaves long sighs because he doesn’t see Pundarika Vidyanidhi. Lord Gauranga stands up and starts to dance, calling out loudly,, “Pundarika, my father! Pundarika, my friend, my father! When will I see you?” (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.7.11-3)

It is thought that Pundarika Vidyanidhi took initiation from Madhavendra Puripada at the same time that Advaita Acharya did. Mahaprabhu always showed him the respect that was due the godbrother of his own guru. In the Chaitanya Charitamrita, Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami writes:

I know Sri Pundarika Vidyanidhi to be a major branch, for the Lord himself cried while spontaneously calling out his name. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.10.14)

Gadadhara becomes Pundarika’s disciple

Srila Gadadhara Pandit Goswami, Mukunda Datta and Vasudeva Datta were also originally from Chittagong and so they were acquainted with Pundarika Vidyanidhi. Indeed Gadadhar Pandit’s father Madhava Mishra was his good friend. Mukunda Datta knew his transcendental personality and that he was a Vaishnava, but Gadadhara did not, even though he was from the same town. This was, of course, a pretense for the sake of the lila.

When Pundarika was living in Nabadwip, Mukunda Datta told Gadadhar one day that he wanted to introduce him to a great Vaishnava. Srila Gadadhara Pandit Goswami was a brahmachari from childhood and extremely detached from the senses and ascetic in his lifestyle. When he saw Pundarika sitting on comfortable cushions covered in sheets as white as the foam of milk, and wearing very expensive clothes and perfumes, smoking from a hookah, and generally surrounded by all the trappings of a sensual lifestyle, he was unable to recognize him as a Vaishnava. Indeed, he felt let down.

Mukunda could see from Gadadhara’s face what was going through his head, and in order to bring out Pundarika’s inner mood, recited two verses from the Bhagavatam that enkindle the flames of love for Krishna.

aho bakiyam stana-kala-kutam 
jighamsayapayayad apy asadhvi 
lebhe gatim dhatry-ucitam tato’nyam 
kam va dayalum sharanam prapadye 
(Srimad Bhagavatam 3.2.23)

putana lokabalaghni rakshasi rudhirashana 
jighamsayapi haraye stanam dattvapa sad-gatim 
(Srimad Bhagavatam 10.6.35)

How truly amazing! The sister of Bakasura, the evil Putana, was sent on a mission to kill Krishna. He drank the kalakuta poison mixed with her breast milk, and despite her evil intentions, awarded her the position of a wet nurse (as Ambika Killimba in Goloka). Who is more merciful than he that I should take shelter of him?

That Rakshasi Putana was a blood-drinking killer of infants. Even though she wanted to kill Krishna, because she gave him her breast, she attained the auspicious goal of a nurse in Goloka.

As soon as he heard these two verses in glorification of Krishna’s mercy, Sri Pundarika Vidyanidhi cried out “Ha Krishna!” and fell to the floor in a swoon. He began to roll on the floor in ecstasy, knocking over the hookah and tearing his clothes.

When he saw these transcendental symptoms of love on Pundarika’s body, Gadadhara realized that he had committed an offense, which he began to regret. He decided that the only way to rid himself of this offense would be to take initiation from Pundarika, and he related this idea to Mukunda. Mukunda then communicated his desire to Pundarika who happily set a date for the auspicious act. Mahaprabhu also gave his approval and so Gadadhara took mantra initiation from Pundarika Vidyanidhi.

In Krishna lila, Sri Pundarika Vidyanidhi is Vrishabhanu and Srila Gadadhara Pandit Goswami is Radha. Because of his identity as Vrishabhanu, Mahaprabhu would call out to him as “father!” when he was himself in the mood of Srimati Radharani. The deep affection from their previous life’s relation became apparent between Pu.ndarika and Gadadhara. No one can understand the pastimes of the Vaishnavas without their mercy.

vaishnava cinite nare devera shakati 
mui kon chara shishu alpamati

Even the gods are unable to recognize a Vaishnava, so how can a foolish, fallen child like myself do so?

Even though Pundarika Vidyanidhi was a great Vaishnava, he kept it a secret and appeared just like a materialistic person. One cannot recognize a Vaishnava through any superficial examination. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur writes in his Gaudiya-bhashya to the Chaitanya Bhagavat: “Krishna lila is not accessible to pure sensual understanding. Krishna’s servants occasionally go unrecognized due to their apparently materialistic surroundings. In this way they deceive the conditioned souls. Most scholars take Krishna’s activities to be those of a material lover because of their own obsession with sensuality, and thus they have no faith in him. Others consider Krishna to be an ordinary man who is born and dies and is transformed and thus they have no idea of who he really is. Krishna’s devotees are also sometimes reluctant to reveal their real selves to those who are unworthy and thus make a pretense of being ordinary materialistic persons. Gauranga Mahaprabhu is also sometimes called the pracchanna-avatar or hidden incarnation. In the same spirit, Pundarika put on the show of being sensualist for those who were capable of being deceived by someone’s external appearance.”

One day Pundarika Vidyanidhi came to see Mahaprabhu when it was already quite late at night. As soon as he saw the Lord, he was so overcome by love that he could not even pay his obeisances. Mahaprabhu was similarly anxious to see his most dear devotee, Pundarika and he immediately took him to his breast and washed him with his tears of love. When the other devotees heard Mahaprabhu cry and call Pundarika “father” and “treasure of love”, they knew that he was most dear to him. Pundarika Vidyanidhi was also known to Mahaprabhu’s associates as Acharyanidhi.

The Supreme Lord cried and called out “Pundarika! Father! Today I have seen my own father! Today I rose from my sleep at an auspicious moment, and I saw Premanidhi standing before me. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.7.131, 143)

Pundarika in Puri

Sri Pundarika Vidyanidhi participated in the nightly sankirtan festival in Srivasa Pandit’s house along with Mahaprabhu and his other associates. On Mahaprabhu’s order, Nityananda and Hari Das went door to door to spread the chanting of the Holy Names and thus to liberate the conditioned souls, succeeding in converting Jagai and Madhai. Later, when Jagai and Madhai were sitting amongst the devotees before Mahaprabhu, they also displayed the ecstatic symptoms of prema. Sri Pundarika Vidyanidhi was also present there and he became completely submerged in loving ecstasy to see their fortune. On Mahaprabhu’s order, the devotees led by Advaita Acharya went each year to see the Rathayatra. Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami describes him as being one of the leaders of Gauranga’s associates as they made the annual trip:

All of Mahaprabhu’s servants such as Advaita, Nityananda, Mukunda, Srivasa, Vidyanidhi, Vasudeva and Murari came together each year to meet with him and they would stay four months. The lord enjoyed many pastimes in their company. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.1.255-6)

Sri Pundarika Vidyanidhi was also present at Jagannath’s Chandana yatra festival when Mahaprabhu and all his devotees would play in the water of Narendra Sarovara, also known as Chandan Pukur. Pundarika and Svarupa Damodar were close friends and they joyfully splashed each other as a part of these pastimes.

Vidyanidhi and Svarupa Damodar were friends. Laughing, they splashed water on each other. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 3.8.124)

Pundarika Vidyanidhi also participated with Mahaprabhu and his associates in the cleaning of the Gundicha temple, afterwards relishing mahaprasad with them.

Gadadhara wants to be reinitiated

One day, Srila Gadadhara Pandit Goswami asked Mahaprabhu if he could retake again. He said,

“Ever since I repeated my ishta-mantra to someone, I have been unable to concentrate when I chant. Please repeat the mantra to me, then my mind will be calmed.”

Mahaprabhu answered,

“You already have a mantropadeshaka guru. Be careful, otherwise you will be an offender to him. Everything I have is yours, even my life, what to speak of the mantra. But as long as your guru is alive it is improper for me to repeat it to you.” (Chaitanya Bhagavat 3.10.23-6)

Gadadhara answered, saying, “He isn’t here. Please do it in his place.”

Mahaprabhu replied: “Destiny will bring your guru Vidyanidhi to you.” The omniscient Mahaprabhu continued, “Sri Pundarika Vidyanidhi will be here in Puri to see me in ten days.” And that is what came to pass. Mahaprabhu became ecstatic, crying, “Father has come! Father has come!” Upon Vidyanidhi’s arrival, Gadadhara went to him and asked him to repeat the mantra to him.

Gadadhara Deva asked Premanidhi to again initiate him in the ishta-mantra, which he lovingly did. How can I sufficiently glorify Sri Pundarika Vidyanidhi, who has a loving disciple like Gadadhara Pandit! (Chaitanya Bhagavat 3.10.79-80)

Our most worshipable Srila Prabhupada commented on the above verse (3.10.24) in the following way: “The mantra is that divine sound or shabda brahma which destroys the mental aptitude for sense gratification. If one instructs a faithless person in the divine sound, the mind becomes contaminated. If one’s divine understanding (divya-jïana) is destroyed, then one must seek the same again. Gadadhara Pandit understood this and so he asked Gaurasundara Mahaprabhu to reinitiate him. Mahaprabhu’s judgment, however, was that he should go to his own guru to hear the mantra again.”

The lesson to be learned here is this: Srila Gadadhara Pandit Goswami is Mahaprabhu’s eternal associate; it is thus impossible that any contamination could have entered his mind. It was only through Gadadhara that he was instructing those who would be guru that if one instructs an unqualified person in the mantra, it loses its potency and no longer brings the same joy to the heart of the practitioner. When this happens, it is necessary to go to the guru again and hear the mantra from him again. It is against custom to hear the mantra again from someone who is not one’s guru, because one cannot change initiating spiritual masters in this way. Gadadhara was only saying “I cannot concentrate like before” (na sphure bhalo mati), i.e., “The ecstatic feelings no longer come when I chant”, out of an exemplary humility designed to teach humanity how to act.

Jagannath slaps Pundarika

On the Oriana Ñashthi festival, Jagannath’s servants dress him in a cloth which still has starch in it. Sri Pundarika Vidyanidhi was a pure sad-acari, i.e., attached to the proper etiquette of Vaishnavism. When he observed this custom, he did not feel happy about it and said to his friend, Svarupa Damodar, “Why do they give this unwashed cloth to the Lord? The people of this country know the rules in the Smritis and the Srutis, so why do they give this mariuwa cloth to Jagannath?”

Svarupa Damodar answered that the supreme lord is beyond the rules and regulations that have become general custom and that therefore there was no fault. Vidyanidhi did not find this conclusion satisfying and he countered by saying, “That may be true for the Lord himself. But his servants should follow the rules of the scripture. The shri-vigraha of the Lord is beyond the material qualities, so you can say this of him, but his servants are not of the same nature as he. So we have to judge whether their behavior is proper or improper.”

Vidyanidhi is Mahaprabhu’s dear associate and beyond any fault, but once again we see that the lord teaches particular lessons through his devotees. Here he wished to show that we have no right to make judgments or to find fault with the behavior of Jagannath’s devotees. That night an angry Jagannath came to Pundarika Vidyanidhi and gave him a dream vision. Vidyanidhi was frightened when he saw the anger of the lord. He saw both Jagannath and Balaram slap him on each of his cheeks and he started to cry out, “Krishna save me! Krishna, save me! Forgive me my offense!” Jagannath said to him:

“There is no end to your offensiveness. Just as there is no question of pure and impure in my case, the same holds true for my servants. You are staying here; you should know all this. If you thought that it was impure, then why did you stay at all? Go home then, if you want to maintain your purity.” (Chaitanya Bhagavat 3.10.131-2)

When he woke up in the morning, the devotees saw the marks of the Lords’ slaps on his cheeks, which had swollen as a result and they started to laugh. This pastime shows just how dear Sri Pundarika Vidyanidhi was to Jagannath and to Mahaprabhu, for the Lord only comes to his dearest devotees to personally punish them in this way.

That night Jagannath and Balaram came to him and, laughing all the while, slapped him on the cheeks. Pundarika Vidyanidhi felt a secret joy at his swollen cheeks, as has been described by Vrindavan Das in detail. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.16.80-1)

It is stated in the Bhakti-ratnakara that Mahaprabhu celebrated the birth of Radharani at Sri Pundarika Vidyanidhi’s house. (Bhakti-ratnakara 12.3177).

Vrindavan Das Thakur concludes the Chaitanya Bhagavat with the following glorification of Sri Pundarika Vidyanidhi:

The Supreme Lord Gauranga called out the name of this devotee, crying “Pundarika, my father. Anyone who hears about his life and activities will undoubtedly attain Krishna’s lotus feet.” (Chaitanya Bhagavat 3.10.183-4)


Srila Raghunandanda Thakur

vyuhas tritiyah pradyumnah priya-narma-sakho’bhavat 
cakre lila-sahayam yo radha-madhavayor vraje 
shri-caitanyadvaita-tanuh sa eva raghunandanah

The third member of the catur-vyuha, Pradyumna, took part in Radha Madhava’s lila in Vraja as Krishna’s intimate friend or priya-narma-sakha. He has now appeared as Raghunandan, whose body is not different from that of Chaitanya. (Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 70)

Raghunandan’s father, Mukunda Das

Raghunandan was born into a family of physicians in the Shaka year 1432 (1510 AD). His father’s name was Mukunda Das, his mother’s name is unknown. Mukunda Das was Narahari Sarkar Thakur’s older brother. In the fifteenth chapter of the Madhya-lila of Chaitanya Charitamrita, it is clearly said that Mukunda Das was physician to the king.

Externally, he appears to be a physician to the king who is engaged in government service. But internally, he is filled with divine love. Who would be able to know his love? (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.15.120)

Once when Mukunda Das was engaged in treating the king, he saw a peacock feather and fainted. This incident is also described in the Chaitanya Charitamrita (2.15.121ff). His home was in Srikhanda, a village in Burdwan district. On the Katwa-Burdwan rail line, the first station west of Katwa is Sripat Srikhanda, and the second Srikhanda. Mukunda Das’s home is about one mile from the Srikhanda station. Raghunandan Thakur took birth on the Vasanta Panchami day. His uncle Narahari took a great deal of interest in raising Raghunandan, for whom he had much affection.

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu indicated that one’s importance increases with the depth of devotion by telling Mukunda Das that his son was really his father.

The three most important devotees from Srikhanda were Mukunda Das, Raghunandan and Narahari. Mahaprabhu asked Mukunda Das, “Are you Raghunandan’s father and he, your son? Or, is he your father and you his son? Tell me so that I can put my doubts to rest.” Mukunda answered, “Raghunandan is my father and I am his son, rest assured. Whatever devotion we have comes from him, therefore I see him as my father.” When he heard Mukunda Das’s answer, Mahaprabhu was thrilled and he said, “He from whom we imbibe devotion is certainly our guru.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.15.112-117)

Mahaprabhu gave Raghunandan the service of deity worship

Raghunandan’s work is to serve Krishna. He has no interest in anything other than serving Krishna. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.15.131)

From his early childhood, Raghunandan Thakur would feed the family’s Gopinath deity laddus. Uddhava Das has written a song in which this lila is described:

Mukunda Das lived in the village of Srikhanda, where his household deity was named Gopinath. One day he had to go somewhere for work and he called Raghunandan to do the service.

He said, “In this house we worship Krishna, so I want you to be sure to give him something to eat.” and then he left. Raghunandan did as his father had ordered and made the offering to the deity.

Raghunandan was just a child and in his simplicity, he said to Gopinath, “Eat! Eat!” Krishna is controlled by love, and so he did as the child told him and ate everything on the plate without leaving a grain of rice.

When Mukunda Das returned, he asked the boy to bring him the prasad from the offering he had made. The child answered, “Father, he ate everything and left no remnants.”

Mukunda was astonished at his child’s wonderful words that he asked him again on another occasion to make an offering. This time after he left the house, he returned and hid to watch what his son would do.

Raghunandan joyfully placed a laddu in Krishna’s hand and said in a commanding voice, “Eat! Eat!”. When Krishna had eaten half of the laddu, Raghunandan saw Mukunda Das in the doorway.

Mukunda saw that Krishna did not take another bite and that the half-eaten laddu remained in his hand. This caused him to be filled with love. He embraced his child and, as tears of joy rained from his eyes, spoke to him in a broken voice.

To this day, fortunate people come to Srikhanda to see the half-eaten laddu in Gopinath’s hand. Raghunandan is not different from Cupid himself, says Uddhava Das with great feeling.

[All the mahantas] felt fascinated to see the Gopinath deity whom Raghunandan had fed laddus. (Bhakti-ratnakara 9.525)

Other miraculous events

Narahari Sarkar Thakur gave mead to Nityananda Prabhu and Mahaprabhu from a pond which was right next to the their home. This pond became known as Madhu Pushkarini. The legend is told that a kadamba tree which grew right next to the pond always had two flowers blooming regardless of the season by Raghunandan’s miraculous powers.

According to the Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana, another miraculous event took place in Raghunandan’s life: One day Abhirama Thakur came to Srikhanda and paid his obeisances to Raghunandan. Then he embraced him and melted with feelings of prema. Raghunandan started to dance and sing kirtan, and while doing so, one of his ankle bells slipped from his foot and went flying off, landing four miles away in Akai Hat near his disciple Krishna Das’s house. Later, in order to commemorate the event, a tank was excavated there which was given the name Nupur Kund.

Mahaprabhu, the father of sankirtan, gave his adopted son Raghunandan Thakur the authority to offer the garland on the day before the sankirtan yajna (the adhivasa) and to make the final offering at the yajna’s end.

Raghunandan Thakur accompanied the Bengali devotees to Puri ever year at caturmasya. He would dance with his uncle Narahari at the Rathayatra festival in the group formed by the residents of Srikhanda.

He participated in the Kheturi festival organized by Narottama Das Thakur, at Gadadhara Das’s festival in Katwa and at the commemorative festival for Narahari Sarkar Thakur in Srikhanda.

Some people said, “Anyone who is dear to Raghunandan will win Mahaprabhu’s mercy for life after life.” Others said, “Raghunandan is so merciful that he gives life to the most humble and fallen.” Some said, “What humility! There is no one who is his equal.” And others, “He is as beautiful as Kandarpa himself!”, etc. (Bhakti-ratnakara 9.660 ff.)

Srila Raghunandan Thakur had great affection for Srinivas Acharya. Prior to his disappearance he consoled Srinivas that despite the difficult times, he would be able to spread Vaishnavism in the future:

“A difficult time is coming in which people will succumb to various doubts. Narahari Prabhu wrote in his Shri-Krishna-bhajanamrita:

krishna-caitanya-candrena nityanandena samhrite 
avatare kalav asmin vaishnavah sarva eva hi 
bhavishyanti sadodvignah kale kale dine dine 
prayah sandigdha-hridaya uttametara-madhyamah 
(verses 3-4)

Once our Lord Krishna Chaitanya and his companion Nityananda Prabhu have ended their incarnation, the Vaishnavas in this age of Kali will be anxious with every passing day. Whether very advanced, somewhat advanced or neophyte, their hearts will nearly always be filled with doubt.

But don’t let this worry you. Lord Gauranga will accomplish many great works through you. I bless you that you remain long on this earth and that you and your followers protect our Lord’s religion. Those who are opposed to devotion to Krishna will become devotees by your influence and they will take shelter of you. (Bhakti-ratnakara 13.174-179)

Raghunandan Thakur bequeathed the service of his Gaura-Gopal deity to his son Kanai Thakur and then left this world on the fourth day of the waxing moon in the month of Shravan. Kanai Thakur gave a feast as a part of his father’s last rites:

Raghunandan slowly became hidden to mortal eyes while repeating again and again the names of Sri Krishna Chaitanya. How glorious is that day of Shravan shukla caturthi! Who will not sing the glories of Raghunandan Thakur? (Bhakti-ratnakara 13.183-4)


Srila Raghunath Das Goswami

dasa-raghunathasya purvakhya rasa-maïjari 
amum kecit prabhashante shrimatim rati-maïjarim 
bhanumaty-akhya kecit ahus tam nama-bhedatah

Raghnatha Das is ascribed three different names from his previous identity as a manjari in Krishna-lila: Rasa Manjari, Rati Manjari, and Bhanumati. (Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 186)

Raghunath’s childhood

Raghunath Das was born in around 1416 Shaka (1494 AD) in the town of Saptagram in Hooghly district. His actual birthplace was in the village of Krishnapura which is not far south of the current railway station name Adi Saptagram on the eastern bank of the ancient Saraswati River. Krishnapura is about a mile from Adi Saptagram station and approximately 1 mile from Trish Bigha station.

Srila Raghunath Das Goswami was the son of Govardhana Majumdar. His mother’s name is not known. Govardhana’s older brother Hiranya had no male offspring. The two brothers belonged to the kayastha caste and were the primary landholders in Saptagram. In those days, the borders of Saptagram stretched from the Yashohara Bhairava creek almost up to the Rupa Narayan River. Raghunath lived in Saptagram Krishnapura, his uncle Kali Das, who was also Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s devotee, lived in Shankhanagara. Raghunath’s family priest, Balaram Acharya and his guru, Yadunandana Acharya, lived in the town of Chandpura. Yadunandana was an intimate disciple of Advaita Acharya and a dedicated devotee of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who had also received the special blessings of Vasudeva Datta Thakur.

After delivering the prostitute sent to tempt him by Ramachandra Khan, Hari Das Thakur left Benapole and came to Chandpura where he stayed with Balaram Acharya. Srila Raghunath Das Goswami was just a young boy at this time, but he had the opportunity to see Hari Das Thakur and receive his blessings. Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami says that these blessings were the cause of Raghunath’s later being able to attain the association of Mahaprabhu in the last years of his life.

Raghunath Das was just a little boy engaged in studies he had the darshan of Hari Das Thakur. Hari Das was merciful to him and this mercy was the reason that he later was able to attain the company of Lord Chaitanya. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.3.168-9)

Raghunath’s desire to join the Lord

Hiranya and Govardhana Majumdar had an annual income of 800,000 rupees. At that time, a rupee could buy about 650 lbs of rice, which means several hundred times the value of a rupee today. Even though Raghunath was the only heir to this great fortune, he was indifferent to riches from his childhood. He had his first opportunity to see Mahaprabhu when the Lord came to Shantipur after taking sannyas. As soon as he saw the Lord, Raghunath fell to his feet in a transport of divine love. Raghunath’s father, Govardhana Majumdar, always served Advaita Acharya with faith and devotion, and thus Advaita Prabhu was predisposed to show kindness to the young Raghunath. He thus made sure that Raghunath received the Lord’s remnants for as long as he remained in Shantipur.

When the Lord departed for Puri, Raghunath returned to his home in Saptagram, but he had been transformed and was constantly feeling intense separation from the Lord. Seeing him in this condition, his father surrounded Raghunath by a guard of eleven men, including two Brahmins, four servants and five guards. Even so, Raghunath tried on several occasions to run away in order to join the Lord, but each time was caught and brought back before realizing his objectives. Raghunath became progressively depressed as a result of this situation.

In 1513, when the Lord made his attempt to visit Vrindavan, but only managed to get as far as Kanair Natashala, he returned to Shantipur and again stayed there for a short period of time. Raghunath wanted to see the Lord and this time begged his father to give him permission to go to Advaita’s house. Govardhana was worried about the state of his son’s mind and finally decided to let him go on condition that he return quickly. He also sent a large entourage of guards to accompany him.

When Raghunath saw the Lord, it was as though he regained a new lease on life. He told the Lord of the intolerable situation he was living and prayed to him to tell him how he could break free from the bondage of his material existence. The all-knowing Lord could understand the depth of Raghunath’s feeling and yet he tried to pacify him with the following instruction:

“Calm yourself and return home. Don’t be foolish. It takes time to cross the ocean of material suffering. Don’t make a show of “monkey renunciation” (markata-vairagya) simply for other people’s benefit. Enjoy the worldly life in a moderate way without attachment. Be fixed on Krishna internally while externally dealing with the world in the appropriate fashion. It will not be long before Krishna delivers you.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.16.237-9)

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur has made the following comments on the word markata-vairagya: “To a superficial eye, monkeys are engaged in renunciation because they live naked in the forest without any fixed home. In fact, they are only interested in their own sensual enjoyment and have never given it up. Such show-bottle renunciation is called markata- vairagya, ‘monkey-renunciation’. Real renunciation comes as a side-effect of pure devotion, and other types of renunciation which arise out of frustration with material pleasures or desires cannot last throughout one’s life. Because of its temporary character, such renunciation is therefore called phalgu, or false. Such temporary renunciation, or monkey renunciation, is also known as shmashana-vairagya, ‘the renunciation of the cremation ground.’

“One may accept things which are absolutely necessary in order to serve Krishna without becoming absorbed by them or attached to them. If one lives in this way, he will not be under the influence of the karmic reactions resulting from the involvement with sense objects. In the Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu (1.2.108), it is said:

yavata syat sva-nirvahah
svikuryat tavad arthavit 
adhikye nyunatayam ca
cyavate paramarthatah

One who knows his purpose should accept only as much as he needs to maintain his existence. If he accepts more or less than that, he will fall from the supreme objective.

Sri Jiva Goswami glosses the word sva-nirvahah in his Durgama- sangamani commentary with the words sva-sva-bhakti-nirvahah, i.e., a devotee should accept only those material things that will help him render service to the Lord, according to his own individual needs. In the Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu (1.2.256), markata-vairagya, or phalgu-vairagya, has been more clearly explained as follows:

prapaïcikataya buddhya
mumukshubhih parityago
vairagyam phalgu kathyate

Phalgu-vairagya is defined as the rejection by one desiring liberation of something which is related to the Lord in the understanding that it is something material.

[As I have written in Vaishnava ke?]: Shri hari-sevaya jâha anukula, vishaya boliya tyage haya bhula-- “It is a mistake to renounce something which is favorable to the service of Lord Krishna, thinking it to be an ordinary material sense object.”

anasaktasya vishayan
yatharham upayuïjatah 
nirbandhah krishna-sambandhe
yuktam vairagyam ucyate

Yukta-vairagya is defined as the attitude of one who is detached from the objects of the sense, but uses them only inasmuch as they have utility in the service of Lord Krishna.

[Once again, from Vaishnava ke?] asakti-rahita sambandha sahita vishaya-samuha sakali madhava-”All sense objects which are used without personal attachment and in relation to Krishna are identical to Krishna.”

Taking Mahaprabhu’s instruction to heart, Raghunath returned home and gave up his feverish desire to renounce material life and instead engaged in his various duties with a sense of detachment. When his parents saw Raghunath abandon all the external signs of renunciation, they were delighted and they began to think that there was no necessity for such a tight guard around their son.

Hiranya Majumdar’s tax problems

In those days, there was an officer of the Shah with the title caudhuri or nayeb who acted as an intermediary between the Shah and the zamindars. He collected taxes from the landowners and received a commission of 25% on them. Hiranya Majumdar, however, paid his taxes directly to the Shah, with whom he had a special agreement and thus cut out the middle man. Thus, on an income of 2,000,000 rupees, Hiranya was paying only 1,200,000 rather than 1,500,000, the difference which would normally have been paid to the caudhuri. Since he was losing a large amount of commission, the Turkish Muslim caudhuri became an enemy of the Majumdars.

Ever since returning from his meeting with Mahaprabhu, Raghunath was practicing yukta-vairagya in accordance with the Lord’s instructions. However, when he heard that Mahaprabhu had returned from Vrindavan, he started making preparations to join him in Puri. At that time, the caudhuri had started making complaints to the Shah about Hiranya and Govardhana out of anger at being cheated of his percentage of the tax revenue. Fearful of arrest, the two brothers had gone into hiding.

When the minister came to investigate the caudhuri’s complaints, he arrested Raghunath, since his father and uncle were not present. The caudhuri came daily to rebuke and threaten Raghunath, asking him to reveal their whereabouts. Finally he decided to have Raghunath beaten, but when he saw his calm, lotus-like face, he was unable to continue. In fact, though he verbally chastized him, the caudhuri was afraid to cause him any real harm because Raghunath belonged to an influential family of the kayastha class. He knew that the kayasthas are intelligent and could plot against him, causing him worse problems.

Raghunath himself was looking for a way to extricate himself from the situation, and spoke to the caudhuri in a sweet voice: “My father and uncle are like your brothers. The behavior of brothers is difficult to understand--sometimes they fight amongst themselves, sometimes they are loving to each other. Today you are arguing, but tomorrow, I am sure that you will be reconciled with each other. I am your son as much as I am my father’s and therefore you are my protector. It is not right for one such as yourself to punish his dependent. I need say no more, for you know the scriptures and are practically a living saint, a pir.”

The caudhuri was affected by Raghunath’s sweet words and began to cry as he was overcome by affection for him. He said, “From now on, I consider you to be my son. I will find an excuse to have you freed today. Have your uncle meet with me and make arrangements so that I can get my share of the revenues.”

Thus Raghunath was able to mollify the caudhuri by his sweet and diplomatic behavior and bring the dispute between him and his uncle to an end. In the meantime, Raghunath’s father was making arrangements for his son’s marriage to an extremely beautiful girl in order to insure his commitment to the family.

The Danda-mahotsava

A year later, Raghunath once again became anxious to see Mahaprabhu and repeatedly ran away from home in an effort to go to Puri. Each time, he was caught by his father and returned home. Raghunath’s mother thought that her son was going mad and told her husband to place him under guard again. Govardhana responded in defeated tones,

“He has as much wealth as Indra, the king of the gods, and his wife is as beautiful as the heavenly courtesans. If these things have not been able to capture his spirit, then how will mere ropes be able to do so? The father who gives life to a child cannot interfere with the effects of his previous lives’ actions. Sri Chaitanya Candra has given his blessings to this boy. Who can keep prisoner one who was been made mad by Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu?” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.6.39-41)

While Raghunath Das was devising a plan for how he would be delivered from his entanglements, he heard that Nityananda Prabhu had made an auspicious appearance in the town of Panihati. Thinking that Nityananda was the deliverer of the most fallen and that by his mercy he would surely be able to find his freedom, he went across the Ganges to Panihati where he found the Lord sitting under a tree on a wooden seat, surrounded by his associates. As soon as Raghunath saw him from a distance, he fell down like a rod. The merciful Lord Nityananda immediately had him brought close to him and, understanding the deep-rooted desires of Raghunath’s heart, arranged for him to perform a service to the Vaishnavas so that he could realize them.

“Like a thief, you don’t come near me, but simply try to run away. Now that I have caught you, I shall punish you. I want you to feed all my followers chipped rice and yogurt.” When he heard Nityananda’s command, Raghunath’s mind was filled with joy. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.6.50-1)

The festival which Nityananda ordered Raghunath to put on is still celebrated as the Panihati Ciriadadhi Mahotsava. Nityananda Prabhu and a manifestation of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu himself celebrated the festival, eating on the banks of the Ganges just as though they were cowherd boys on the banks of the Yamuna River. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Nityananda Prabhu, their associates, numerous Brahmins and countless men and women from the area enjoyed a feast of milk and chipped rice and yogurt and chipped rice. The opportunity to serve the Lord and his devotees in this way was something that could not come about except for some great fortune.

On the following day, Raghunath Das Goswami emotionally asked Nityananda through Raghava Pandit how he could possibly gain freedom from his material entanglements and find the association of Mahaprabhu. Like an ocean of mercy, Nityananda Prabhu placed his feet on Raghunath’s head and said,

“You arranged this feast on the banks of the river and Mahaprabhu was merciful to you and came here himself to enjoy it. He blessed you by accepting the offering of chipped rice and yogurt. Then, after watching the devotees’ dancing, he took prasad in the evening. Lord Gauranga came here just to deliver you and now he has removed any impediments which remained. He will turn you over to Svarupa Damodar and making you his confidential servant, he will keep you by his side. Go home now and forget your worries. You will soon be able to go to the Lord without any difficulties.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.6.139-143)

After discussing with Raghava Pandit, Raghunath gave a large sum of money as dakshina to be paid to Nityananda and his associates. He himself felt as though his life had been fulfilled after receiving Nityananda Prabhu’s blessings. Upon returning to his house, he never again entered the inner quarters, but remained outside where he slept in the Durga Mandapa. Nevertheless, there was always a guard posted near him to prevent him running away.

Raghunath escapes

Though Raghunath knew that the devotees from Bengal were preparing their annual trip to Puri, he was afraid of joining them because he knew that he would easily be caught. One day, about an hour before dawn, Yadunandana Acharya came by the house while Raghunath was sleeping on the Durga-mandapa. He told Raghunath that a disciple who performed the puja had abandoned his service and needed to be persuaded to take it up again as there was no replacement.

Raghunath accompanied his guru while all the guards were still sleeping. After walking a way with Yadunandana Acharya, however, Raghunath told him to return to his home, saying that he would go alone to the disciple’s house and convince him to come and perform his duties. He told him not to worry and bid him goodbye. With no guards or servants around him, Raghunath realized that he had a golden opportunity to make his escape.

Meditating on Mahaprabhu’s lotus feet, he started to walk toward the east. He avoided the main roads for fear of being caught and even the smaller roads through the villages. Despite the difficult route through the jungle, he walked thirty miles on the very first day, finally taking rest in a milkman’s cowshed that evening. The milkman saw that he had not eaten for the entire day and gave him some milk.

When Govardhana heard that his son had run away, he immediately sent a group of ten servants with a letter for Shivananda Sena who was already on his way to Puri with the devotees, telling him to send Raghunath back. They caught up with the group of pilgrims at a place called Jhankara, but were disappointed to find that Raghunath was not with them. Meanwhile, Raghunath was walking at great speed towards Puri, completely oblivious to his own fatigue and hunger.

Raghunath arrived in Puri after only twelve days, having stopped to eat only three times along the way and resting only infrequently. He came upon Mahaprabhu, who was sitting with Svarupa Damodar, and paid his obeisances to the Lord from a certain distance. Mukunda Datta informed the Lord that Raghunath had arrived and was paying his obeisances. The Lord told him to approach and Raghunath fell at his feet. The Lord embraced him, his heart melting with compassion for the exhausted young man. He said, “Nothing is more powerful than Krishna’s mercy. It has dragged you out of the deep latrine hole of sense gratification.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.6.193) Raghunath answered the Lord mentally, thinking, “I know nothing about Krishna. I believe that it was you who pulled me out of that hole.”

Mahaprabhu’s maternal grandfather, Nilambara Chakravarti knew Raghunath’s father and uncle and used to call them bhaya because they were younger than he. They too called him dada (“older brother”) because he was their elder and a Brahmin. Knowing that this relationship existed between them, Mahaprabhu joked with Raghunath, saying:

“Your father and uncle are like worms in the latrine pit of sense gratification. They think that the suffering which comes from sense gratification is happiness. Even though they believe in brahminical culture and contribute to it, they are not pure Vaishnavas, only imitation Vaishnavas. The nature of the sense objects is that they make one blind; they make one engage in activities which result in material bondage. It is not possible to properly describe Krishna’s mercy which has delivered you from such bondage.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.6.197-200)

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur has written the following about Krishna’s mercy and the suffering caused by the poison of sense gratification: “Krishna’s mercy is more powerful than the results of one’s previous activities. It was this powerful compassion of the Lord which pulled Raghunath out of the latrine hole of sensual existence. A living entity who is attached to sense gratification does not have the strength to give it up. For the living being who has become a pure devotee of Krishna, however, sense enjoyments are like a ditch of stool. Mahaprabhu knew that Raghunath was completely free from any attachment to sense gratification. Nevertheless, he said this to him as a teaching to the conditioned souls.” (Anubhashya 6.9.193)

“Sense objects (vishaya) bring great distress to their so-called enjoyer (vishayi). Even so, those whose brains are completely immersed in the objects of sense gratification and are entangled in the whirlpool of material existence consider these sources of distress to be happiness. The objects of material sense gratification should be discarded in the same way that one abandons an outhouse, and one whose mind is possessed by the desire for these objects of gratification is like a maggot who feeds off the stools in the latrine. This is how the transcendentalist sees the materialistic person who is trying to extract pleasure from inert matter. He has nothing but disdain for materialistic pleasures which he sees being exactly like the pleasure a maggot extracts from the taste of rotting excrement.” (Anubhashya 6.9.197)

Raghunath’s renunciation

Mahaprabhu noticed that Raghunath was dirty and weak after his journey and so, after accepting him as his own son and servant, entrusted him to Svarupa Damodar, telling him take responsibility for him and to see to his well-being. He was thenceforth to be known as Svarupa’s Raghunath to distinguish him from Raghunath Vaidya and Raghunath Bhatta, who were also living in Mahaprabhu’s association in Puri at that time. The Lord also told Govinda to take care of Raghunath with great affection. He then told him to go and take his bath in the ocean and go to see Lord Jagannath, after which he was to join him for lunch. When Govinda gave Raghunath the remnants of the Lord’s plate to eat, Raghunath was overjoyed.

Things went on like this for five days, Raghunath taking the Lord’s remnants each day, but on the sixth day, he stopped taking the Lord’s mahaprasada. From that day on, he went to the Jagannath temple and took darshan of the Lord’s flower offering, after which he would stand at the Lion’s Gate and beg maha prasad. At night, after they had finished their duties, Jagannath’s servants would pass by on their way home and would customarily give prasad to any hungry Vaishnavas who waited there. In this way, renounced Vaishnavas could keep body and soul together. This type of renounced attitude was particularly noticeable amongst Mahaprabhu’s devotees.

When the Lord asked after Raghunath and learned that he was no longer taking prasad in the same way as before, but begging by the Simha-dvara, he was satisfied to see that he was taking the renounced way of life so seriously. He said,

“That’s very good. He is taking the life of a renunciate seriously. A renunciate should always be engaged in repeating the names of the Lord and should keep his body and soul together through begging. Anyone who takes the renounced order and then becomes dependent on others cannot achieve his ends and Krishna will ignore him. One who becomes a renunciate and then lusts for tasty foods will never attain his spiritual goal, and will simply become the slave of his tastebuds. A vairagi’s duty is to always chant the names of Lord Krishna and fill his belly with spinach leaves, fruits and roots. One who runs here and there looking for good things to eat becomes attached to his sex organs and his belly and will never attain Krishna.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.6.222-7)

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur has underscored Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami’s statement that the vairagi’s only duty is to chant the names of the Lord. He has written the following: “Examining them impartially, both materialistic non-devotees and pure Vaishnavas can see that Mahaprabhu’s associates are not attached to the gratification of their material senses. They are indifferent to anything which cannot be used in the service of Krishna. The reasons for such renunciation are incomprehensible to the ordinary materialistic person, for their service is without any external motive and it cannot be interrupted by any mundane impediment.When Lord Gaurasundara sees a devotee engaged in this kind of devotional service, completely indifferent to sense objects which are outside the scope of his service needs, he is greatly pleased with his clever attitude.

“The various rituals which are described in the Hari-bhakti-vilasa are meant for the wealthy householder and not for the vairagi who has renounced everything to take exclusive shelter of the Holy Name. One who chants the holy names in the morning, in the middle of the night, in the midday and at sunset, in other words throughout the day and night is certain to cross over the ocean of material existence. Those pure devotees who are fixed exclusively on the devotional service of the Lord and chant his names and remember him with love have no duty to perform other than kirtan and smarana.” (Anubhashya 3.6.223, translation of Hbv 20.366, 379, 382).

Srila Raghunath Das Goswami would never speak to the Lord directly, but asked Govinda or Svarupa Damodar to submit any question or request to the Lord on his behalf. One day he asked the Lord through Svarupa Damodar to instruct him personally on his duties. When the Lord heard this, he told Raghunath that Svarupa Damodar knew far more than he did and that he should take instruction from him about the goal of life and how to attain it. When Raghunath’s eagerness to hear from him directly did not abate, the Lord said, “If he has faith in my words, then let him follow these instructions:

“Do not listen to gossip nor engage in gossip yourself. You should not eat very palatable food, nor should you dress very nicely. Always chant the holy name of Lord Krishna without any expectation of honor, offering all respect to others. Mentally render service to Radha and Krishna in Vrindavan.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.6.236-7)

The Bengali devotees arrived in Puri for Rathayatra and met Raghunath, who was particularly fortunate to receive Advaita Prabhu’s blessings. Shivananda Sena told him that his father had been looking for him. After staying four months in Puri, the devotees returned to Bengal and Shivananda gave news of Raghunath to Govardhana Majumdar, telling him of his determined ascetic spiritual practices. Raghunath’s parents were distressed to hear of his lifestyle and sent a Brahmin, two servants and four hundred rupees to Shivananda for Raghunath. The following year, Shivananda took these servants and the money to Puri with him and informed Raghunath that his father had sent them. Raghunath would not accept them, but thinking of his father’s benefit, he took some of the money and used it to pay for Mahaprabhu’s meals twice a month. After doing this for two years, Raghunath abandoned this practice also. In response to Mahaprabhu’s question about why Raghunath had stopped inviting him, Svarupa Damodar said that Raghunath had decided that since his father was a materialistic man, Mahaprabhu was not really pleased to eat the food purchased with his money. By accepting such money his own mind was becoming contaminated and his only gain was some fame and status. Furthermore, he thought that Mahaprabhu was only accepting his invitations out of kindness because Raghunath was so foolish that he would be unhappy if he refused, but that in fact he was secretly not very pleased by it. Mahaprabhu was greatly satisfied to hear this conclusion and said,

“When one eats food offered by a materialistic person, one’s mind becomes contaminated. If the mind is contaminated, one is unable to remember Krishna. The food of a materialistic person is infected by the mode of passion and both the person who offers it and the one who accepts it are mentally contaminated. I accepted Raghunath’s invitation for many days because of his enthusiasm. I am glad that he has realized all this and given up this practice on his own initiative.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.6.278-80)

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur has commented on the above events as follows: “People who are egotistical and possessive are generally materialistic persons who try to enjoy the world for their own sense gratification. Such persons see their money as a tool for achieving such sense gratification. If they attempt to serve the Lord, the guru or the Vaishnavas, who are beyond the material energy, their only gain will be an increase in material prestige and not the true benefits of such service. One who seeks true auspiciousness should therefore try to serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead by full surrender to his lotus feet and then engaging whatever money one has honestly earned in the spiritual service of Krishna, the spiritual master and the Vaishnavas, using his body, mind, words and heart.” (Anubhashya 3.6.275)

“Certain materialistic persons who are intoxicated by high birth, riches, learning or physical beauty, may make a show of deity worship, offer the prasad from that worship to Vaishnavas. Due to their ignorance, they are not aware that because they lack devotion, the Lord does not accept their offerings. Because of the taint of the sense enjoyer’s false pride which contaminates such offerings, it is often seen that the pure Vaishnava is indifferent to such apparent service to the deity. In other words, a pure Vaishnava who has renounced the life of sense enjoyment does not accept such service. Rich materialistic sense gratifiers are so foolish because of their sense of identification with the body and mind that they become angry with the Vaishnavas and offended by their behavior. (Anubhashya 3.6.276)

“Non-devotees and Prakrita-sahajiyas are considered to be materialistic, or vishayis. Because they offer food without devotion, an aspiring devotee will be contaminated by their association through eating their food. The result of such flaws in association (sanga-dosha), one will develop the same mentality as they. If one engages in even minimal association with materialists or Sahajiyas, who are materialists in the guise of Vaishnavas, through any of the six kinds of association (exchanging gifts, food or confidences), with even a drop of hidden affection, the result will be that the transcendental devotional service of Lord Krishna is transformed into sense gratification, and this will cause the aspiring devotee’s falldown. The conclusion is that one whose mind is fixed on the pleasures of the bodily senses and contaminated by the sense objects is too impure to be able to serve Krishna through the process of transcendental remembrance or smarana.” (Anubhashya 3.6.278)

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur has also written about the rajasika character of a materialistic person’s dinner invitations. He says, “Invitations to dinner are of three kinds, sattvika, rajasika and tamasika. The invitation of a pure devotee is in the mode of goodness, that of a pious materialistic person is in the mode of passion, while the invitation of a very sinful person is in the mode of darkness.” (Amrita-pravaha-bhashya, 3.6.279)

Raghunath Goswami’s asceticism grew stronger with each passing day. He stopped begging at the Lion’s Gate and started going instead to an almshouse. When Mahaprabhu heard this news from Govinda, he asked Svarupa Damodar what the cause was for the change. Svarupa Damodar answered that Raghunath was finding that a lot of time was being wasted standing in front of the Simha-dvara and was going to the almshouse every day at noon instead. Mahaprabhu praised Raghunath’s decision, saying, “Begging by the Simha-dvara resembles the behavior of a prostitute.” A prostitute stands around and waits for some man to come and give her some business, a beggar cannot remain indifferent as he waits for someone to be kind to him. Going for handouts at the almshouse does not present the same kind of problem. One simply has to go at the proper time and one receives enough to keep his body alive. This is useful if one wishes to use one’s time in chanting the Holy Names.

The sannyasi Shankarananda Saraswati sent Mahaprabhu a guïja-mala and a Govardhana-shila from Vrindavan. Mahaprabhu cherished the two objects, taking the necklace of guïja beads to be identical to Radharani and the stone from Govardhana to be identical to Krishna. Mahaprabhu would hold the Govardhana-shila to his head, to his eyes and to his heart, and this would bring him great pleasure. After worshiping the necklace and the stone for three years, he decided one day to give them to Raghunath as a sign of his satisfaction with his devotion. Raghunath felt honored and delighted by the Lord’s gift, and taking them to be the direct representations of Shri-Shri-Gandharvika-Giridhari, he worshiped them with water and tulasi leaves. When engaged in such loving service, he would go into a devotional trance. After his disappearance, the Govardhana-shila was placed in the Gokulananda temple where it is still being served.

It is said of Raghunath Das Goswami’s ascetic vows that they were like lines drawn in stone. He spent 21_ hours a day engaged in chanting Krishna’s names and in smarana, only one and a half hours for sleep and food. He only ate enough to keep body and soul together. He allowed no delicious foods to ever touch his tongue, and he wore only a piece of torn cloth and a quilt.

Finally, he started going at night to gather the prasad which the vendors outside the temple threw away near the Simha-dvara after it started to go so bad that even the Tailangi cows would not eat it. He would wash it to take out the dirt with which it had become mixed until he reached the hard core of the grains which had not cooked. This is what he would eat, only adding a little salt. One day, Sri Svarupa Damodar Goswami saw Raghunath doing this and came and asked him for some of this prasad, comparing it to the nectar of the gods. Even Mahaprabhu, when he heard about it from Govinda, came and took a handful of Raghunath’s prasad, though Svarupa Damodar prevented him from taking a second.

“What is this all about? You are eating such nice things and not giving any to me?” Saying this, the Lord snatched a morsel from Raghunath and ate it. As he was about to take another Svarupa Damodar caught Him by the hand and said, “It is not fit for you,” and took it away from him. (3.6.322-3)

Srila Raghunath Das Goswami has himself summarized these experiences in his verses called Chaitanya-stava-kalpa-vriksha (“The desire tree of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s glories”) which can be found in the collection called Stavavali.

maha-sampad-davad api patitam uddhritya kripaya
svarupe yah sviye kujanam api mam nyasya muditah 
uro-guïja-haram priyam api ca govardhana-shilam
dadau me gaurango hridaya udayan mam madayati

By his mercy, Sri Gauranga took pleasure in delivering me even though I am a fallen soul, the lowest of men, from the blazing forest fire of great material opulence and entrusted me to his personal associate, Svarupa Damodar. He gave me the cherished guïja garland that he wore on his chest as well as his Govardhana shila. And now he awakens within my heart and makes me mad after him. (verse 11)

Raghunath goes to Vrindavan

Raghunath remained under Svarupa Damodar’s tutelage as long as he stayed in Puri, thus gaining direct access to Mahaprabhu’s confidential service and association. In all, he remained there for sixteen years until the Lord and his chief confidant disappeared to the eyes of this world.

When this event took place, Raghunath felt that he could no longer live in their absence and decided to go to Vrindavan to commit suicide by jumping from Govardhana Hill. When he arrived in Vraja, he met Rupa and Sanatan Goswamis. They spoke to him for a long time and finally persuaded him not to put an end to his life. They adopted him as their third brother and kept him with them. Rupa and Sanatan were enriched by hearing the nectarean pastimes of Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu from Raghunath.

Raghunath Das Goswami’s separation from Mahaprabhu and Radha-Krishna became so intense that he gave up eating solid food altogether, only drinking whey to sustain himself. He would pay a thousand prostrated obeisances, chant 100,000 Holy Names, serve Radha and Krishna mentally both day and night, recount the glorious pastimes of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and bathe three times a day without fail in Radha Kund. This was the exemplary standard of bhajana set by Raghunath in which he served their Lordships for more than 22 hours a day, sleeping only an hour and a half, if at all.

Raghunath’s renunciation may superficially be compared to that of the Buddha, but when examined more closely it will be observed that there are some unique characteristics in Raghunath’s asceticism. The external meaning of renunciation is detachment from sense gratification, but its true meaning is attachment to the supreme person. Raghunath’s strong attachment to the lotus feet of Radha and Krishna meant that he was completely and naturally detached from anything which was not connected to his worshipable lords.

Radha Kund

Sri Raghunath Das Goswami lived a long life. Srinivas Acharya had the chance to receive Raghunath’s blessings before leaving Vrindavan to return to the East with the Goswamis’ books. Srinivas was astounded by the powerful asceticism and deep absorption in love. Raghunath Das Goswami wrote three books: Stavavali, Shri Dana-carita (Dana-keli-cintamani) and Mukta-carita.

He lived in Radha Kund which was where he engaged in his most intense devotional practices. He was blessed there by Nityananda Prabhu’s widow, Jahnava Devi, when she visited Radha Kund.

When Mahaprabhu himself visited the village of Arit and displayed his pastime of bathing in a rice field, by which he indicated the presence of Radha Kund and Shyama Kund. At that time the two tanks had not been excavated and finished with steps, etc. Raghunath himself thought it would be a good idea to have this work done, but had some reservations about getting involved in this kind of work. However, one day, a rich merchant who was on pilgrimage to Badari Narayan with the intention of donating a large sum of money to the temple there. But Badari Narayan appeared to him in a dream and told him to fund Raghunath’s vision of a developed Radha Kund and Shyama Kund. The merchant came back to Vraja and found Raghunath in the village of Arit and recounted the story of the dream to him. Raghunath thus supervised the excavation of the ponds and the subsequent building of stone steps walkways.

Five trees stood on the banks of Shyama Kund which are said to be the five Pandavas. Raghunath had the intention of cutting down these trees so that Shyama Kund could be made perfectly rectangular. Before this could happen, however, Raghunath had a dream in which Yudhishthira appeared to him and told him that the five Pandavas were present in Radha Kund in the form of these trees. Raghunath immediately stopped the workers from cutting them down. This is why Shyama Kund was not built as a perfect rectangle.

Other legends about Raghunath in Vraja

Another story is told about Raghunath Das Goswami. It is said that when he read Rupa Goswami’s play, Lalita Madhava, he was submerged in an ocean of separation. Though he he was permanently in Radha’s association at Radha Kund, he was unable to tolerate even a momentary threat of separation, what to speak of intense feelings of Krishna’s absence. When he read the Lalita-madhava, which has separation from Krishna as its primary subject matter, this mood became so strong that it became doubtful that he would be able to survive. When Rupa saw Raghunath’s response to his play, he wrote another, short work named Dana-keli-kaumudi which is full of humor and amusing banter. He gave this book to Raghunath and took back his copy of Lalita-Madhava. When Raghunath read Dana-keli-kaumudi, he forgot his feelings of separation.

At first, when staying by Radha Kund Raghunath had no fixed shelter. He occasionally stayed with Gopal Bhatta Goswami, whose cottage was situated on the banks of the Manasa-Ganga in Govardhana. One day he took bath in the Manasa-Ganga and then went to sit under a tree surrounded by unkept thickets and began to worship the Lord in a devotional trance. While he was meditating, a tiger came there to drink water. Sanatan Goswami was also present there at the time and observed Raghunath as he remained unmoved even though exposed to such danger. He instructed Raghunath to build a cottage in which to live and engage in his devotional activities.

Srila Raghunath Das Goswami had special affection for a certain Vrajavasi whose name was Das. Raghunath’s daily nourishment consisted of only a leaf bowl of whey. This Vrajavasi was distressed to learn that Raghunath ate so little, thinking that it was impossible for him to keep alive on such a small amount. One day when in the village known as Sakhisthali, he was overjoyed to see a silk cotton tree with huge leaves. He had a bigger sized bowl made with these leaves in which he put whey for Raghunath and then brought it to him. Raghunath was quite astonished to see such a large leaf-bowl and asked him where he got it. When he heard the name of Sakhisthali, he immediately threw down the bowl and the whey. Sakhisthali is the home of Candravali, Radharani’s primary rival for Krishna’s love. Candravali’s sakhis like Shaivya and Padma are constantly looking for ways to take Krishna away from Radha’s bower and bring him to that of their girlfriend. Just as Radharani is distressed by these actions, so are her girlfriends. Raghunath was a member of Radharani’s entourage and so it was his role to constantly think of how to bring happiness to her and her girlfriends. As soon as he heard the name of Sakhisthali mentioned, he was transported by anger. This mood is the ultimate stage of love which envious people who are burdened by material lust could never understand. In the Bhakti-ratnakara, it is written,

After calming down, Raghunath said to Das, “That is Candravali’s place. You shouldn’t ever go there.” Das Vrajavasi calmed down and recognized that these were the symptoms of spiritual perfection in what was apparently a spiritual aspirant. All these devotees are eternally perfected souls. Anyone who doubts it must be considered fallen. (Bhakti-ratnakara 5.572-4)

There is one other extraordinary legend about Raghunath Das Goswami recounted in the Bhakti-ratnakara. One day he was suffering from indigestion. Vitthalanatha came with two doctors from Vallabhapura to cure Raghunath Das. After examining him, the doctors said that the indigestion had been caused by eating rice and milk. Vitthalanatha was astonished to hear this diagnosis and said, “This is impossible. This man never eats anything but whey.” Raghunath then spoke up, saying that he had indeed eaten milk and rice in the course of his meditation on the pastimes of Radha and Krishna.

Sri Raghunath Das Goswami left his body on the banks of Radha Kund where his samadhi tomb stands. This took place on th Shukla Dvadashi tithi of the month of Ashvina, in the year 1586.