[July 16, 2019 is the disappearance day of Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī in Vṛndāvana, India. The following is an excerpt of a bhāva anuvāda of discourses by Śrīla Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja, given on ṣaḍ-gosvāmī-socakas on February 4 and 11, 2017. Editors’ input: Additional text has been included in square brackets to facilitate the flow of content.]
TAKING SHELTER OF MAHĀPRABHU
Although serving in the esteemed position as the prime minister to the Emperor Nawāb Hussein Shah, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī discontinued going to work after meeting with Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu in Rāmakeli. Rather, on the pretext of ill-health, he began to deeply contemplate the verses of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam at his residence in the association of a few scholars. After some time, the emperor sent his [vaidya] physician to find out if Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī was recovering. However when the emperor was apprised of Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī’s activities at home, realizing that he no longer wanted to continue his administrative responsibilities, the Nawāb personally visited and warned him of the dire consequences in doing so. Hearing this, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī replied, “I am also one of your subjects so you can punish me as you deem fit, but I cannot continue my work.” Seeing his unyielding resolve; either out of anger or fear of losing an indispensable resource, the king imprisoned Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī. Unlike any ordinary prisoner, he was shackled around his hands and feet to doubly ensure that he wouldn’t escape.
Later when the Emperor decided to attack Orissa, he approached Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī again, saying, “I am going to Orissa, you can join me if you wish.” Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī replied, “You are planning to attack Orissa, which belongs to Lord Jagannātha. I cannot accede to giving pain to the Lord in this way.”
Due to the brief association of Śrīmān Mahāprabhu, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī understood and realized that Śrīmān Mahāprabhu’s dearmost scripture is Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is so deep that one cannot understand it merely by reading it himself.
[yāha, bhāgavata paḍa vaiṣṇavera sthāne ekānta āśraya kara caitanya-caraṇe
(Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta Antya 5.131)
“If you want to understand Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam,” he said, “you must approach a self-realized Vaiṣṇava and hear from him. You can do this when you have completely taken shelter of the lotus feet of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.”]
One needs the association of high class devotees [Vaiṣṇavas] who are well-versed in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, the direct manifestation of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, then Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam reveals itself according to one’s qualification [Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī showed through his own conduct how Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is to be studied and discussed in the association of devotees]. Each and every scholar can explain his point of view, thus to deeply understand the real purport of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī invited all of them with great respect and made all arrangements for them to reveal their heart.
CRYING FOR SHELTER
Thinking, ‘How can I get out of this prison? I have tried everything in my power, but to no avail. The jailer who I had helped get his job is not helping me out of fear of punishment.’ Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī remembered the story of a deer.
I am in such a situation that I am surrounded by distress and danger from all sides; Just like the she-deer who was surrounded by the deep waters of the ocean from behind, a blazing forest fire on both sides and in front, a hunter ready to shoot her with his arrow. At that time this hariṇī helplessly cried out, “O Nātha! Where can I go now? What should I do? Please deliver me now! Who else can save me?” The hunter, who was just waiting for the best opportunity to shoot the deer, was feeling great joy thinking – ‘There is no way my prey can escape; if it burns in the fire it is mine, if it dives in the ocean and dies, or if I shoot and kill it, even then it is mine’. In this way, with great joy, he was slowly closing in on the deer. However, because the deer called out to the Lord in such a way, a snake suddenly bit the hunter, instantly killing him and giving the deer the opportunity to escape.
THE ENCRYPTED MESSAGE
While in prison, someone anonymously delivered a letter to Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī. Seeing the immaculate script, he instantly recognized the penmanship of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī. Feeling a new surge of hope, he happily and intently read its contents. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī had encrypted his message in the form of a śloka.
[Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura informs us that this letter from Rūpa Gosvāmī to Sanātana Gosvāmī is mentioned by the annotator of the Udbhaṭa-candrikā. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī wrote a note to Sanātana Gosvāmī from Bāklā. This note indicated that Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu was coming to Mathurā; it stated:
yadu-pateḥ kva gatā mathurā-purī raghu-pateḥ kva gatottara-kośalā iti vicintya kuruṣva manaḥ sthiraṁ na sad idaṁ jagad ity avadhāraya
(Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 20.3)
“Where has the Mathurā-purī of Yadupati gone? Where has the Northern Kośalā of Raghupati gone? By reflection, make the mind steady, thinking, ‘This universe is not eternal.’ ”]
Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī also wrote in the letter, “I have left 10,000 gold coins with a local grocer, somehow free yourself from the prison using this.” So Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī felt hopeful reading this.
[Only] An intelligent man can give signals like this. When the city of Purī was attacked by Muslims, one of the ministers was imprisoned. The minister noticed that the western gate of the enemy’s camp was weak. So he wrote a letter saying, “Put water in the field of sugarcane on your west and quickly send five gaṇḍā of pān and one pānā (this is a unit of measurement) of supāri, otherwise, I will perish.” No one could decipher the message as there was no sugarcane field there. Then a barrister named Madhusūdana decoded the message; He said, “The enemy is weak on the west. Pān refers to rifles and supāri means bullets. He is telling us how much ammunition we need and which direction to attack from, or else Orissa will be defeated.”
In the enemy camp, they inquired from the minister the meaning of his message. So he said, “Sir, I am from Orissa so I am used to having pān (betel leaves). Without it, I suffer from gas and digestive problems.” They trusted him and the Muslims were later defeated.
Similarly Śrīla Advaita Ācārya sent a [sonnet] message for Mahāprabhu.
bāulake kahiha, – loka ha-ila bāula
bāulake kahiha, – hāṭe nā vikāya cāula
bāulake kahiha, – kāye nāhika āula
bāulake kahiha, – ihā kahiyāche bāula
[“Please inform Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, who is acting like a madman, that everyone here has become mad like Him. Inform Him also that in the marketplace rice is no longer in demand.
“Further tell Him that those now mad in ecstatic love are no longer interested in the material world. Also tell Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu that one who has also become a madman in ecstatic love [Śrī Advaita Prabhu] has spoken these words.”]
Upon hearing this, Śrīmān Mahāprabhu said, “He is a smārta-brāhmaṇa; he invites the demigods for worship and after worship is done, he sends them away (visarjana).” In saying this, Śrīmān Mahāprabhu did not lie. Śrīla Advaita Ācārya had pleaded for Him to come. Now that everyone had received love of god, which is what Śrīmān Mahāprabhu had come to give, He could stop. Others didn’t understand the riddle nor His response. At that point, Śrīmān Mahāprabhu commenced another līlā to wind up His pastimes.
LUST MAKES ONE FORSAKE FEAR AND SHAME
Upon receiving the gold coins, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī opened a dialogue with the jailer saying, “Earlier I got you this job, remember I have done so much for you; now is your chance to return the favor. If you release me, I promise I will go far away from this country, to Mecca and the Emperor won’t ever come to know of my whereabouts.”
But the jailer was fearful, “How can I do it? The Emperor can punish me severely.” Then, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī, who was as intelligent as Bṛhaspati, kept 7000 golden coins in front of him. Now, the same jailer switched his stance, enticed by the stunning sight of 7000 gold coins glittering before him, he immediately conceded.
This change of heart is based on the following principle:
kāmāturāṇām na bhayam na lajjā
[Garuḍa Purāṇa 1.115.67]
kāmāturā has two different interpretations – one is ‘a person having thousands of desires’ [the other meaning was not discussed]. Those controlled by lust do not experience fear or shame, although the fear of death, punishment, defamation, etc. may be present within them. When such persons see an opportunity to fulfil their desires, they lose all fear and shame.
The jailer was neither shameful in thinking, “Is it proper to accept bribe from someone who favored me before?” Nor did he fear being reprimanded by the Emperor.
LUST AND UDDĪPANA
This pastime also shows how lust is born upon sight. The sight of the gold coins immediately incited temptation in the jailer, making him alter his decision.
A bank cashier carries out many transactions without getting enticed by that money because he is fully aware it doesn’t belong to him. Speaking about a hundred million dollars doesn’t allure people, but by seeing that amount in front of them, anyone would immediately become greedy to own it.
This also evinces how renounced Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī was; not even a trace of greed arose in him by the sight of those gold coins. Instead, he gave them all away, as money was inconsequential for him. The kind of spiritual wealth he possessed was matchless and superlative. What to speak of a few gold coins, he left everything – his position, his house, his belongings and all his wealth - just for the mercy and association of Śrīmān Mahāprabhu.
There is also a positive side of desire arising on sight: When, by the unsurpassed mercy of a pure devotee, the wealth of kṛṣṇa-bhakti is shown to somebody, only then that person actually develops intense greed for devotional service.
krīyatāṁ yadi kuto ’pi labhyate
tatra laulyam api mūlyam ekalaṁ
janma-koṭi-sukṛtair na labhyate
[Padyāvali Text 14]
["Pure devotional service in Kṛṣṇa consciousness cannot be had even by pious activity in hundreds and thousands of lives. It can be attained only by paying one price — that is, intense greed to obtain it. If it is available somewhere, one must purchase it without delay."]
After being released, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī and Īśāna crossed the Gaṅgā sitting on the back of a crocodile. After delivering them to the bank, the crocodile went away. Then they began walking towards Vṛndāvana. Being fugitives, they did not choose the main road but instead took the forest path. On the way they reached a mountainous region that had a dense forest around it, which made it difficult to ascertain which way to proceed.
Right then, they came across an affluent person who, although a local landlord, was moonlighting as a dacoit. That landlord was assisted by an astrologer [palmist] who could predict how much treasure someone was carrying. In this way, the landlord discovered that Īśāna possessed eight gold coins. With an intention to steal those coins, the landlord put on a charade, speaking very sweet words with Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī, and assured him of aiding their safe passage across the mountainous terrain.
Seeing his dealings, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī, who was intelligent like Bṛhaspati (the teacher of demigods), sniffed imminent danger. A doubt arose in his mind, ‘This landlord doesn’t come across as gentle. Then what is prompting him to behave like this?’ He asked his sevaka, Īśāna, if he was carrying any valuables with him. Īśāna confirmed that he had seven gold coins. Displeased, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī immediately chastised him, “Why would you carry these gold coins while travelling like this through the forest? These coins are like Yamadūtas and can attract our death.” Taking those seven gold coins, he promptly approached the landlord saying, “My sevaka has seven golden coins. Please accept them and arrange for our journey”.
The astonished landlord replied, “In reality, I knew from the very beginning that your sevaka had eight golden coins. To steal them, we planned to kill both of you tonight. But, I can see that you are a person of high consciousness so I feel it is unbefitting to accept anything from you. Also, you are offering us far more than it costs to cross the mountains. Please retain these coins. I assure you of all arrangements for your safe passage.” But Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī insisted, “If you don’t accept them, someone else will kill us for them so it is my request that you please keep them.”
Thus the landlord kept the gold coins and made all arrangements for them to cross the hilly tract.
RENUNCIATION MEANS TO DEPEND ON THE LORD IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES
After crossing over the mountain, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī asked Īśāna, “I think you still have some gold coins with you.” When Īśāna confirmed that he had one left, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī said, “We are approaching Vṛndāvana, which must be done in the spirit of true renunciation. Thoughts such as ‘I need some wealth to maintain myself’ or ‘in case of an emergency’, do not enter the consciousness of a truly renounced person. First of all, you carried gold coins and secondly you lied that you had only seven coins when you actually possessed eight. If you cannot depend entirely on the Lord in all circumstances, you are not ready to go to Vṛndāvana yet so it is better that you return.” When one wants to leave saṁsāra, one must not carry anything. Please return home now, taking this coin with you. Thus Īśāna went back home and Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī continued alone.
The teaching from this episode is that Īśāna was not yet fully surrendered to the Lord for His protection; instead he depended on one gold coin. One who is not completely surrendered to the Lord’s will should not become a renunciate.
HUMILITY EVOKES MERCY
On the way Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī met his brother-in-law at Hājipura. After a little rest, when Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī expressed the desire to leave, his brother-in-law insisted that he accept an expensive woollen blanket from him, which Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī reluctantly accepted.
Proceeding further, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī reached Kāśī. Hearing that Śrīmān Mahāprabhu was residing at the house of Śrī Candraśekhara Vaidya, he went there and sat outside the gate. Being omniscient, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu knew that Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī had arrived. He asked Śrī Candraśekhara Vaidya to look outside the house for a Vaiṣṇava. After looking outside the house, he returned and reported to Śrīmān Mahāprabhu that there wasn’t a Vaiṣṇava outside. Śrīmān Mahāprabhu again asked if there was anyone at all. He said, “Yes there is one Muslim mendicant.”
Śrīmān Mahāprabhu said to call him instantly. Śrī Candraśekhara then went and called Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī inside. Holding straw in both his hands and teeth, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī entered and prostrated at the lotus feet of Śrīmān Mahāprabhu. Often we see this phrase in Vaiṣṇava songs:
sakala vaiṣṇava gosāi doyā koro more
dante tṛṇa dhari’ kahe e dīna pāmare
[With a straw between my teeth, this very wretched and fallen person is petitioning all the Vaiṣṇavas and Gosvāmīs, “Please give me your mercy.”]
What does this mean? Who keeps straw in between their teeth? Animals like buffalo, donkeys etc keep straw between their teeth. So it means that one has to really acknowledge that he is like an animal, engaged only in activities which animals perform such as eating, sleeping, mating and defending. When one fully accepts and realizes this by mind and actions, not just externally by words, he submissively and earnestly approaches a Vaiṣṇava, begging to be upgraded from animal life to Vaiṣṇava life. If one approaches saints in this mood of humility, then one can get their mercy.
Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī showed by his own example how when he approached Śrīmān Mahāprabhu with this mood he got showered with His mercy.
A VAIṢṆAVA IS NOT TO BE JUDGED BY HIS OUTER DRESS
On seeing Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī’s state, Śrīmān Mahāprabhu was overwhelmed with ecstatic love. His eyes moistened with tears and He wrapped His arms around Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī. Both began to cry unlimitedly. Parental love surged in Śrīmān Mahāprabhu’s heart, just as it does within a cow that licks her calf or within a mother who caresses her son upon seeing him after a long time. Śrīmān Mahāprabhu sat Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī next to Him and began to touch all his limbs, cleansing them with His own hands.
Śrī Candraśekhara Vaidya was astonished to see an exalted personality like Śrīmān Mahāprabhu having such an intimate relationship with a ‘Muslim mendicant’. Externally, he was unable to understand Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī’s position. Here, Śrīmān Mahāprabhu gives a valuable teaching on how one can never recognize a Vaiṣṇava by external considerations, such as appearance. Higher authorities only see the Vaiṣṇavatā in the heart; as the intention of the heart is the foremost consideration in judging anyone. When Rāvaṇa came to abduct Sitā-devī, he was disguised as a tridaṇḍī sannyāsī so why doesn’t anyone refer to him as a sannyāsī? Because the intention in his heart was demoniac, not saintly.
Dress may have some value but if a person does not use it to make spiritual progress, then it is worthless. To demonstrate this, once Śrīla Gaurakiśora dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, who used to [otherwise] wear kaupīnas, came to Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s residence dressed very opulently. Upon seeing him, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura asked, “O Bābājī Mahārāja, what kind of a pastime is this? Why are you wearing these clothes?” He replied, “These days, this kind of a dress is better. At least people will not be cheated (thinking I am a saint), instead they will curse me addressing me as ‘bhogī’ and my sins will be destroyed. They will not offer me obeisances considering that I am a bābājī.”
ESTABLISHING SAMBANDHA-JÑĀNA IN KĀŚĪ
Kāśī is famed as the hotbed of Māyāvāda philosophy, which means to identify oneself with Brahman – ahaṁ brahmāsmi. At that place Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu inspired His devotee, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī, to ask about topics which would establish the real truth.
Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī humbly enquired from Mahāprabhu about his real identity and the cause of his suffering.
Mahāprabhu said, “In reality, no suffering exists in your life. You are not a person who doesn’t know his true identity. You know everything, saba tattva jana (you know all kinds of tattvas). Nāhitāpa-traya (you have no suffering in your life) But you are a sādhu, and the nature of a sādhu is such that, even though he knows everything, as soon as he associates with another sādhu, he discusses about the supreme truth, the Lord, His devotees and different tattvas. That is why you are asking.”
In reply to his questions, Mahāprabhu did not say, ‘You are Sanātana Gosvāmī’ or ‘You were born in a brāhmaṇa family’, but instead stated:
jīvera ‘svarūpa’ haya — kṛṣṇera ‘nitya-dāsa’ kṛṣṇera ‘taṭasthā-śakti’ ‘bhedābheda-prakāśa’
(Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 20.108)
[The constitutional position of the jīva is that he is an eternal servant of the Lord. He appears from the Lord’s marginal energy and a manifestation simultaneously one with and different from the Lord].
In this way Śrīmān Mahāprabhu instructed him.
kṛṣṇa bhuli’ sei jīva anādi-bahirmukha ataeva māyā tāre deya saṁsāra-duḥkha
(Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 20.117)
[“Forgetting Kṛṣṇa, the living entity has been attracted by the external feature [the material manifestation] from time immemorial. Therefore the illusory energy [māyā] gives him all kinds of misery in his material existence.]
A living entity derives from the taṭastha region; taṭastha means that place from where one can move in any direction. Since he has the freedom, he can go to either side – the spiritual or the material world. When he becomes averse to the service of the Lord, at that time he becomes bahirmukha, meaning he does not look in the direction of the Lord, or His service, instead he looks in the direction of māyā (illusion). At that time, Māyādevī brings this jīva into her grip and starts making him suffer.
kabhu svarge uṭhāya, kabhu narake ḍubāya daṇḍya-jane rājā yena nadīte cubāya
(Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 20.118)
[“In the material condition, the living entity is sometimes raised to higher planetary systems of material prosperity and sometimes drowned in a hellish situation. His state is exactly like that of a criminal whom a king punishes, submerging him in water and then raising him again from the water.”]
Because of the jīva’s previous pious activities, māyā sometimes promotes him to Svargaloka, the heavenly planets and sometimes metes out his suffering in hellish planets like Narakaloka.
In earlier times, the king had a special way to punish miscreants – the culprit would be dunked into the river until he gasped for breath. He would then be drawn out of the water for a few moments. Just when he felt some sense of alleviation, due to the temporary relief from the torture, he would be dunked in the water again. In this way, the victim experienced both heaven and hell, being above the water and submerged under it respectively.
Actually, for devotees heaven and hell are the same. That is why Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura sings in one of his kīrtanas [Yugala-caraṇa Prīti, Prema Bhakti Candrikā]:
puṇya se sukhera dhāma, tāhāra nā laiya nāma
pāpa puṇya dui parihara
[Don't even talk about pious activities, which are the source of all happiness. Give up both pious and sinful activities.]
Never consider that performing pious activities will bring any happiness to you. Never ever consider that is true. You should give up pāpa (committing sins) as well as puṇya (performing pious activities). Give up both, as both result in inauspiciousness. Pāpa puṇya dui parihara - one has to give up both.
There is a very simple example to illustrate this: A person can be killed in two ways in connection to food. He can be given all the tasty foodstuffs he likes and told – “Eat! And if you stop, I will kill you.” How much, and for how long can that person eat? On the other hand, you can kill a person by refusing him any food or water; eventually that person will die of starvation. So enjoying the facilities of the heavenly planets can be likened to Māyādevī giving so many eatables [facilities for sense gratification] to a person - “I will kill you when you stop”, whereas others are killed by not being given anything. Thus devotees hanker neither for heaven or hell, as they consider the nature of both similar.
Then Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura mentions - Even for worldly pious activities, don’t worship demigods or demigoddesses. Instead be fixed only on worshiping the lotus feet of Lord Govinda, who can award you real happiness. Hṛṣīkeśa govinda sevā, which means, with your senses only worship the lotus feet of the Lord. That is why Śrīmān Mahāprabhu is mentioning, kabhu svarge uṭhāya, kabhu narake ḍubāya - going to higher planets or lower planets are both considered inauspicious for the jīvas.
‘MY’-NESS ROOTED IN ‘I’-NESS
Sanātana enquired from Mahāprabhu,
“ke āmi’, ‘kene āmāya jāre tāpa-traya’
ihā nāhi jāni – ‘kemane hita haya’”
[“Who am I? Why do the threefold miseries always give me trouble? If I do not know this, how can I be benefited?”]
“sādhya’-‘sādhana’-tattva puchite nā jāni
kṛpā kari’ saba tattva kaha ta’ āpani”
[“Actually I do not know how to inquire about the goal of life and the process for obtaining it. Being merciful upon me, please explain all these truths.”]
(Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 20.102-103)
Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī asked, “Ke āmi? - Who am I? I am so foolish, I don’t know who I am, but I know what is mine - my parents, my wealth, my position, etc.”
In reality, the conception of ‘My’ is rooted in ‘I’; an unintelligent person knows, ‘what is mine’ but does not know, ‘who am I’. Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī admitted through his words and actions that this was his position.
SETTING AN IDEAL
Once Mahāprabhu had invited Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī to Toṭa Gopīnātha. Instead of taking the easier path, the main road, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī took the longer route, walking barefoot on the scorching sand of the beach under the blazing mid-day sun. By the time he arrived, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī’s feet were burning with blisters, but being exhilarated at the prospect of meeting Mahāprabhu and honouring His prasādam remnants, he was oblivious to the suffering.
When he arrived, Mahāprabhu noticed the blisters on Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī’s feet and asked, “By which route did you come?” On hearing his reply, Mahāprabhu asked why he had not taken the main road which was shorter and cooler. Then Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī said, “Prabhu, the sevakas of Jagannātha frequent that road. If I had mistakenly touched them, they would have become contaminated and I would have been implicated in an offence. Hence, I did not use that road.”
Mahāprabhu, who was delighted to see Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī’s mood, praised him saying, “An exalted personality like you knows the essence of all scriptures and is aware of the tenets of Vaiṣṇava etiquette. If someone like you observes and protects the etiquette, certainly others will follow your example.”
How did such humility appear in Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī? The more one associates with advanced personalities, the more he naturally develops humility. On the contrary, when one associates with juniors, one develops pride.
HOW TO PERFORM SAT-SAṄGA?
During his journey to Jagannātha Purī from Vṛndāvana, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī drank polluted water and developed a disease called kaṇḍurasā roga as a result. Kaṇḍurasā roga is a skin disease where the body develops many itchy sores discharging pus and blood. In reality, the Lord had arranged this with an intention to manifest a certain pastime.
Reaching Purī, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī resided with Śrīla Haridāsa Ṭhākura, where Mahāprabhu would visit daily. That day when Śrīmān Mahāprabhu arrived, Śrīla Haridāsa Ṭhākura mentioned that Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī had come to offer obeisances to Him.
Pleased to see Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī, Mahāprabhu instantly went forward to embrace him. Retreating quickly, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī requested Śrīmān Mahāprabhu not to embrace him, as his body was covered with many sores oozing with blood and pus. Ignoring his request and forcibly embracing him, Mahāprabhu said, “O Sanātana! Firstly, you are a Vaiṣṇava; a Vaiṣṇava’s body is transcendental and cannot be covered with sores. Bhagavān has put these sores on your body to test Me. If I don’t embrace you, I will fail My examination. So surely I must embrace you. Secondly, being a sannyāsī, I cannot harbor such discriminations.”
Unhappy, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī contemplated, “I had come here to serve Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. But not only am I unable to do so, I am, on the contrary, inconveniencing Him by forcing Him to bathe after the foul smelling pus from my sores touches His transcendental body. Ratha-yātrā is soon approaching. It will be better if I give up my life under the wheels of the chariot of Lord Jagannātha.”
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu is sarvajña – all-knowing. Therefore when Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu came to visit them the next day, He said to Śrīla Haridāsa Ṭhākura, “O Haridāsa, please tell Me, if someone offers something to another person then does he have any entitlement or right over what he has already given?”
Śrīla Haridāsa Ṭhākura replied, “No!”
Then Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu said, “Then please explain this principle to Sanātana. When I met him in Rāmakeli, he fully dedicated his life and body to Me. Now his body belongs to Me and he has no right over it. It is my principal instrument for executing many tasks, which I myself cannot carry out, especially in Vṛndāvana, My dearmost abode. Now Sanātana wants to destroy My property! So explain to him that it is unlawful for him to do so.”
Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī was present during this conversation. After hearing Śrīmān Mahāprabhu, Śrīla Haridāsa Ṭhākura, didn’t say anything to Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī. Even though externally it might look like Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī was inappropriately attached to his body even after surrendering everything to Śrīmān Mahāprabhu and was trying to commit suicide which is an activity in the mode of ignorance, still Śrīla Haridāsa Ṭhākura disregarded this and instead emphasized the fact that Śrīmān Mahāprabhu had accepted him wholly.
Perceiving the deep implication of what Śrīmān Mahāprabhu had said, Śrīla Haridāsa Ṭhākura wholeheartedly praised Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī. After Śrīmān Mahāprabhu left, he continued, “O Sanātana, your fortune is boundless! Śrīmān Mahāprabhu has completely accepted you to the extent that He accepts your body as His own; this is indeed a rare event. He wants to carry out His heart’s desires using you as an instrument in Vṛndāvana which is most dear to Him. So you are very fortunate. I am so unfortunate because I come from a Yavana (Muslim) family and this body cannot be used for any service.”
Instead of becoming puffed up, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī, began to glorify Śrīla Haridāsa Ṭhākura saying, “O Haridāsa Ṭhākura! In reality, you are most fortunate. Śrīmān Mahāprabhu’s mission in this world is to preach the glories of harināma. Instead of personally doing so, He is carrying it out through you. You have been preaching the glories of harināma sankirtana by chanting 3,00,000 names daily yourself as well as through your own conduct and preaching.”
āpane ācare keha, nā kare pracāra
pracāra karena keha, nā karena ācāra
‘ācāra’, ‘pracāra’ – nāmera karaha dui kārya
tumi sarva-guru, tumi jagatera ārya
(Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Antya 4.102-3)
[Some persons behave properly, but do not preach the glories of chanting śrī nāma, whereas others preach but do not behave according to the principles. In relation to the holy name, you both behave in an exemplary way (ācāra) and preach to others (pracāra). You are the guru of all, for you are the topmost devotee in this world.]
You have delivered so many people through harināma like the prostitute Lakṣahīrā. You are really jagat-guru, the spiritual master of the entire world because you are performing the service that is very dear to Śrīmān Mahāprabhu. You are the topmost personality (ārya) and a Vaiṣṇava in the truest sense.”
Even though Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī gave up the idea of ending his life, he was distressed that Śrīmān Mahāprabhu was embracing him so he asked Jagadānanda Paṇḍita’s advice on this matter. Jagadānanda Paṇḍita said, “Mahāprabhu has given Vṛndāvana as a place of residence for you and your brother so you should go there. After your disease is cured, you can return to Purī and associate with and serve Śrīmān Mahāprabhu again.”
Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī agreed with this suggestion. A few days later Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī sought Śrīmān Mahāprabhu’s permission to leave for Vṛndāvana and mentioned Jagadānanda Paṇḍita’s approval for him to do the same. As soon as Śrīmān Mahāprabhu heard this, He became angry with Jagadānanda Paṇḍita.
“kālikāra baṭuyā jagā aiche garvī haila
tomā-sabāreha upadeśa karate lāgila”
(Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Antya 4.158)
[“Jagā [Jagadānanda Paṇḍita] is only a new boy, but he has become so proud that he thinks himself competent to advise a person like you.]
This Jagā is very new in spiritual matters whereas you are an expert, and he is so proud that he is ready to give you advice! You are as learned as Bṛhaspati; so qualified that you can even advise Me.”
[When Śrīmān Mahāprabhu desired to travel from Purī to Vṛndāvana He went via Rāmakeli with a very big following. At Rāmakeli, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī requested Śrīmān Mahāprabhu, “‘yāṅra saṅge haya ei loka lakṣakoṭi, vṛṇdāvana yāibāra ei nahe paripātī – it is not appropriate for one to be followed by a crowd of thousands when going to Vṛndāvana.’ Travelling with such a big group may cause the Muslim government to become suspicious resulting in trouble for the travellers.” Śrīmān Mahāprabhu accepted Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī’s request and did not go to Vṛndāvana but returned to Purī instead.]
Hearing this, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī didn’t think, ‘What Śrīmān Mahāprabhu is saying is true. It is proper that Jagadānanda Paṇḍita should be chastised.’ Instead he said, “Today I have seen how much affection You have for Jagadānanda Paṇḍita. You have so much faith in him that You are able to chastise him. You know that he will never give up Your lotus feet however much You chastise him.”
jagadānande piyāo ātmīyatā-sudhā-rasa
more piyāo gaurava-stuti-nimba-niśindā-rasa
(Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Antya 4.163)
[“Sir, You are making Jagadānanda drink the nectar of affectionate relationships, whereas, by offering me honorable prayers, You are making me drink the bitter juice of nimba and niśindā.]
By chastising him, You have made him drink nectar and by praising me You have made me drink bitter juice made of neem. I am not that qualified that I will be able to tolerate Your chastisements, therefore, You are praising Me.”
Instead of becoming boastful, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī spontaneously saw Śrīmān Mahāprabhu’s affection towards Jagadānanda Paṇḍita as well as Jagadānanda Paṇḍita’s good qualities.
Thus Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī has exemplified how to perform sat-saṅnga through his life’s dealings. Unless one learns to see and appreciate the good qualities in others, truly imbibing the significance of those good qualities, it is not possible to associate in the truest sense.