Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī
[July 31, 2020 is the disappearance day of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī in Vṛndāvana, India. The following is a bhāva anuvāda translation of the classes given by Śrīla Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja on August 15, 2008 and August 3, 2009 in Śrī Rūpa-Sanātana Gauḍīya Maṭha, Vṛndāvana on the occasion of the disappearance day of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī.
While inviting Śrīla Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja to speak on August 3, 2009, Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja introduced him saying, “Śrī Bhāratī Mahārāja is very knowledgeable. He is fully established in rasa (devotional mellows) and siddhānta (established truths). I hereby request him to accept the role of Chairperson for this conference, held in honor of the disappearance tithi of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī.” Editors’ input: Additional text has been included in square brackets to facilitate the flow of content.]
The place where we have gathered today is Śrī Rūpa Sanātana Gauḍīya Maṭha. Prior to this, Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī and Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī came to Vṛndāvana and fully manifested Śrī Vṛndāvana-dhāma and her glories again, without which these glories would elude us all today. Therefore, to commemorate them, this place is known as Śrī Rūpa-Sanātana Gauḍīya Maṭha.
ŚRĪ KAVI KARṆAPŪRA’S DISSATISFACTION
What can we say to glorify Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī? Even Kavi Karṇapūra, an accomplished poet, despite having generously glorified Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī using various adjectives, proclaimed that his words could not do justice.
priya-svarūpe dayita-svarūpe prema-svarūpe sahajābhirūpe nijanurūpe prabhur eka-rūpe tatāna rūpe svavilāsa rūpe
Śrī Caitanya-candrodaya-nāṭaka (9.143)
[Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī is very dear to and adored by Śrīman Mahāprabhu. He is the embodiment of His love, and he very naturally knows His heart. His form resembles that of Śrīman Mahāprabhu; indeed, it is as if their forms are one. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī is the very embodiment of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s pastimes, because it was through him that the Lord performed many works.]
Dissatisfied, even after such a composition, he eventually gave up, saying, “I cannot reach the end of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī’s glories!”
WORSHIPABLE PRAYER BY ŚRĪLA RŪPA GOSVĀMĪ
Whenever anyone would pay obeisances to Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu addressing Him as ‘oṁnamo nārāyaṇa’, Mahāprabhu would close His ears in dismay, asserting that an ordinary person should never be addressed as ‘Nārāyaṇa’. When Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī first met and offered praṇāms to Mahāprabhu, he recited the following prayer -
nāmne gaura-tviṣe namaḥ
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā,19.53)
[I offer praṇāma unto Śrī Kṛṣṇa-Caitanya, who is Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself. Having assumed the golden hue of Śrīmatī Rādhikā, He is munificently bestowing kṛṣṇa-prema, the rarest of all gifts.]
At that time, Mahāprabhu neither closed His ears nor admonished Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī. Why? Because Rūpa Gosvāmī was tattva-vetta, well-versed in spiritual truths. He addressed Mahāprabhu in full knowledge of His identity, while others, who called Him “Nārāyaṇa”, did so out of habit or popular custom. So Mahāprabhu accepted Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī’s prayer.
I pay obeisances to this prayer, not only because it was composed by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī but also because it was accepted by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.
ŚRĪLA RŪPA GOSVĀMĪ’S HUMILITY
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu said one requires four qualifications to chant harināma kīrtana. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī and the other gosvāmīs were firmly established in this doctrine.
tṛṇād api sunīcena
taror api sahiṣṇunā
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Ādi-līlā, 17.31)
[Thinking oneself to be even lower and more worthless than the insignificant grass which is trampled beneath the feet of all, being more tolerant than a tree, accepting no honor, but offering respect to all others according to their respective positions, one should continuously chant the holy name of Śrī Hari]
A Vaiṣṇava once asked me, “How is it possible that a Vaiṣṇava becomes more humble as he advances?” I replied, “So many stalwart Vaiṣṇavas exemplify this principle. Who should I cite as an example? Take Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī for instance.”
Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī said -
adharo ‘py aparadhanaṁ aviveka-hato ‘py aham tvat-karuṇya-pratikṣo ‘smi prasīda mayi madhava
Stava-mālā (Volume 1, Praṇāma-praṇaya-stava 14)
[Although I am a mine of offenses, and although I cannot tell right from wrong, I still hope for Your mercy. O Mādhava, please be merciful to me.]
Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, the authority in the realm of bhakti, is addressing himself as a dustbin or repository of offenses!
In Stava-mālā, he prays,
bhaktir udañcati yadyapi mādhava! na tvayi mama tila-mātrī
parameśvaratā tad api tavādhika-durghaṭa-ghaṭana-vidhātrī
Stava-mālā (Volume 6, Gītāvali 24, Deva BhavantaṁVande, Verse 3)
[O Mādhava, although I don’t possess even a sesame seed of bhakti for You, still, since You are the Supreme Controller, You can make the impossible possible.]
Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī prays, “I don’t even have a sesame seed worth of bhakti.” Why then does he ask for kṛpā, mercy, even though he knows that he has no eligibility to ask for that mercy (by which one gets bhakti)? He says, “Because You are glorious, I am begging for Your mercy. Even though I have no qualifications or eligibility to request for mercy, You can still award it to me because Your aghaṭa-ghaṭana-patīyasī śakti can make what is impossible, possible.”
In this matter Śrīla Kavirāja Gosvāmī said-
āpane ayogya dekhi’ mane pāṅkṣobha
tathāpi tomāra guṇe upajaya lobha
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 1.204)
[We are very depressed at being unfit candidates for Your mercy. Yet since we have heard of Your transcendental qualities, we are very much attracted to You.]
He said, “Lobha or attraction for You comes about only because of Your glories although we are not qualified to even approach You.”
Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī and our ācāryas naturally displayed this mood of humility, without any pretense.
KNOWING MAHĀPRABHU’S HEART
If Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī had not revealed so many mysteries about the Absolute Truth, how could we ever comprehend these subject matters? Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī unravelled Mahāprabhu’s deep moods and made them available to everyone. That is why Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has done more for us than the other associates of Mahāprabhu.
During Ratha-yātrā, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu would sing one śloka from Kāvya-prakāśa about the relationship between a hero and heroine [Endnote 1]. Not understanding His mood, the bewildered people thought – ‘Why is a sannyāsī singing from a mundane poem about an ordinary boy and girl?’ No one knew with what consideration or mood Mahāprabhu was taking darśana of the ratha. Svarūpa Dāmodara Gosvāmī was the only one who understood Mahāprabhu’s moods and would accordingly sing kīrtanas to nourish them.
But when Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī came, he composed another śloka, similar to the one Mahāprabhu would recite [Endnote 2], thus revealing Mahāprabhu’s inner mood. Writing the verse on a palm leaf, Śrī Rūpa kept it to dry on the roof of his cottage at (present day) Siddha-Bakula and went to take bath in the ocean. As per His custom, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu would daily, after taking His bath in the ocean, visit the devotees at Siddha-Bakula. That day, when Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu came there, He saw the palm leaf on the thatched roof. He took it and, reading the composition by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, praised it very much.
When Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī arrived, Mahāprabhu lovingly slapped him on his back. He asked Svarūpa Dāmodara Gosvāmī, “How did Rūpa know My heart?” Svarūpa Dāmodara Gosvāmī said, “It is not possible for anyone to know Your heart unless You have bestowed mercy upon that person.”
Then Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu confirmed, “When I met Rūpa in Prayāga, knowing him to be qualified, I bestowed mercy upon him.” From this, it is evident that whatever Rūpa Gosvāmī wrote, came directly from Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s heart. That is why Rūpa Gosvāmī’s writings are so crucial and indispensible for followers of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.
SIGNIFICANCE OF TEACHINGS AT DAŚA-AŚVAMEDHA GHĀṬA
The specialty of Mahāprabhu was that He always gave teachings or śikṣā as per time, place and circumstance or pātra (recipient). Mahāprabhu gave instructions to Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī at Daśa-aśvamedha ghāṭa in Prayāga, which is famous for being the place of yajña. Yajña is generally performed for a particular desired outcome or to attain a certain goal. Therefore using Rūpa Gosvāmī as the upalakṣya (instrument), Mahāprabhu taught the śreṣṭha or topmost yajña.
Bhagavān mentions in Bhagavad-gītā (10.25), “yajñānāṁjapa-yajño ’smi– of sacrifices, I am the chanting of the holy names (japa-yajña)”.
Superior to this, is uttama-yajña - to engage all the senses in the service of Ādipati, master of the senses, Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Our senses are also likened to horses as they are always taking us in different directions and an aśvamedha-yajña (traditionally) refers to a horse sacrifice [Endnote 3].
But daśa-aśvamedha-yajña can also be interpreted as ‘the sacrifice of our ten senses’. How should the senses be sacrificed? Mahāprabhu explains to Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī - ‘hṛsīkena hṛsīkeśa sevanaṁ– engaging all our senses in the service of the master of the senses.’ Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā, 19.170)
So Mahāprabhu taught that instead of performing yajña to satisfy our desires and senses, the topmost yajña is to satisfy the senses of Bhagavān by engaging all our senses in His service.
TEACHINGS BY MAHĀPRABHU TO ŚRĪ RŪPA
Mahāprabhu gave the teaching that there are endless varieties of jīvas wandering about in this brahmāṇḍa. Among them, human beings are the least in number and the majority of them are humans in name only. Rare are those who are humans by actions. Among them, ones who accept the Vedas as authority are rarer still. Yet many among them act contrary to the Vedic injunctions. In this way, if one considers, he can know that a pure devotee is indeed the rarest of them all.
bhramāṇḍa bhramite kono bhāgyavān jīva
guru-kṛṣṇa kṛpāya pāya bhakti-latā-bīja
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 19.151)
[According to their karma, all living entities are wandering throughout the entire universe. Some of them are being elevated to the upper planetary systems, and some are going down into the lower planetary systems. Out of many millions of wandering living entities, one who is very fortunate gets an opportunity to associate with a bona fide spiritual master by the grace of Kṛṣṇa. By the mercy of both Kṛṣṇa and the spiritual master, such a person receives the seed of the creeper of devotional service.]
Not everyone, but a rare fortunate jīva, by the mercy of guru and Kṛṣṇa, attains the seed of the creeper of devotion (bhakti-latā bīja). Having attained it, by śravaṇaṁ and kīrtanaṁ, which is likened to the process of watering the seed, the bhakti-latā gradually grows, penetrating through the brahmāṇḍa, eventually reaching the spiritual sky. That jīva doesn’t stay in this world; traversing through brahma and parabrahma, he reaches Goloka Vṛndāvana.
In addition Mahāprabhu came to give unnatojjvala-rasa -
sadā hṛdaya-kandare sphuratu vaḥśacī-nandanaḥ
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta(Ādi-līlā, 3.4)
[“May the son of Śrīmatī Śacī-devī, Śrī Gaurahari, forever manifest spontaneously within the innermost core of your heart. Adorned with the radiant splendor of molten gold, He has descended (avatīrṇaḥ) in the Age of Kali by His causeless mercy to bestow upon the world that which has not been given for a long time – the beauty of His own brilliantly radiant ujjvala-prema-rasa bhakti, service in the highest mellow of amorous love.”]
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu had come to give unnatojjvala-rasa, which was not given in a very long time. At Daśa-aśvamedha ghāṭa, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu taught Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī how one can obtain the qualification required to taste that unnatojjvala-rasa, as well as the process of anuśīlana (following in the footsteps of the previous ācāryas) to attain it [Endnote 4]. Śrī Caitanya-deva explained that the Veda śāstras speak about three things – sambandha, abhidheya, prayojana.
Sambandha means knowledge of Bhagavān and the jīva, and their relationship with each other. Prayojana means one’s ultimate aim - attainment of Bhagavān. Abhidheya is the process to attain the aim. Making Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī the instrument, Mahāprabhu gave brief instructions on abhidheya-tattva, the process of devotional service. [Endnote 5]
Being empowered by Śrīman Mahāprabhu, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī expanded the science of devotional service (abhidheya). Beginning with how to do sādhana spanning till Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi, he revealed the intricacies of the subtle considerations and conceptions of the ocean of transcendental mellows and the nuances of the process of devotional service. That is why Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī is considered the authority for the path of bhakti.
SOME TEACHINGS BY ŚRĪ RŪPA GOSVĀMĪ
The topmost manifestation of bhakti – the ultimate fruit of sādhana-bhakti - is prema-bhakti.
Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has described the symptoms of the various stages of bhakti in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.1.17):
kleśa-ghnī śubha-dā mokṣa-laghutā-kṛt su-durlabhā
sāndrānanda-viśeṣātmā śrī-kṛṣṇākarṣiṇī ca sā
[“Śuddha-bhakti has six characteristics: (1) kleśaghnī, it destroys all types of distress; (2) śubhadā, it bestows complete auspiciousness; (3) mokṣa-laghutākṛt, it makes the attainment of liberation insignificant; (4) sudurlabhā, it is extremely rare; (5) sāndrānanda-viśeṣātmā, it is the embodiment of condensed bliss; (6) śrī kṛṣṇākarṣṇī, it attracts Śrī Kṛṣṇa.”]
A neophyte devotee is disturbed by the three-fold miseries (kleśa): ādhyātmika (miseries arising from the body and mind), ādhidaivika (those arising from other living beings) and ādhibhautika (those arising from the natural environment). But as one practices devotion, two fruits appear at the stage of sādhana-bhakti – kleśa-ghnī and śubhadā. At that stage, the devotee no longer perceives such material miseries as kleśa (kleśa-ghnī) and sees only auspiciousness (śubhadā) at all times.
Sādhana-bhakti matures into bhāva-bhakti. Two fruits appear at this stage – mokṣa-laghutākṛt and su-durlabhā. Mokṣa-laghutākrt means one sees the liberation which, jñānīs endeavor for, as insignificant. One also realizes that bhakti is very rare (su-durlabhā).
jñānatah sulabhā muktir bhuktir yajñādi-puṇyataḥ
seyaṁ sādhana-sāhasrair hari-bhaktiḥ sudurlabhā
[By the cultivation of impersonal knowledge, one can easily obtain liberation (mukti) and by the performance of sacrifices and other pious activities, one can easily obtain sense gratification (bhukti), but despite performing innumerable sādhanas, it is still very rare to achieve hari-bhakti.]
Jñānatah sulabhā muktir - Liberation is easily attained through the process of jñāna. Bhuktir yajñādi-puṇyataḥ- By doing yajñas and similar pious activities, one can get bhoga, facilities for sense enjoyment. If one performs one hundred aśvamedha-yajñas properly, one can become Indra. By properly observing sannyāsa vows for one hundred lifetimes, one can become Brahmā. But seyaṁ sādhana-sāhasrair hari-bhaktiḥ sudurlabhā – Hari-bhakti is not only rare (durlabha), it is very rare (sudurlabha).
After the stage of bhāva bhakti, comes prema-bhakti. It also has two fruits - sāndrānanda-viśeṣātmā, or incalculably condensed bliss like sugar candy, miśri. The taṭhastā (secondary) symptom of prema-bhakti is – śrī-kṛṣṇākarṣiṇī - it attracts Śrī Kṛṣṇa. One attracts Kṛṣṇa by two moods: tadīyā (“I am Kṛṣṇa’s”) and madīyā (“Kṛṣṇa is mine”). The mood of Rādhārāṇī and Her sakhīs is ‘madīyā –"We are not Kṛṣṇa’s, Kṛṣṇa is ours".
In Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī wrote about the broad spectrum of bhakti (sādhāraṇa bhakti), delineating the sixty-four limbs of bhakti for practicing devotees, while in Śrī Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi, he described it in a very specific (viśeṣa) way. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has described the process to attain pure devotion and explained the qualification to receive it.
Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī also wrote about Goloka Vṛndāvana, which is like an ocean of milk. It is so divine and nectarean that upon attaining it, the jīva doesn’t even glance back at Vaikuṇṭha, what to speak of this material world! He made such high topics accessible for us.
If one tries to attain Goloka Vṛndāvana then there remains no kleśa (miseries), for him. If one person attains Goloka Vṛndāvana, then that does not affect another’s possibility to attain it, as Goloka is endless, infinite and will never diminish.
On the other hand, since this material world is limited, if a jñānī or karmī attains his object, that directly hampers another’s possibility of attaining it. For example, if one performs a hundred aśvamedha-yajñas, he becomes qualified to become the king of heaven. However there is only one such post and hence only one person can attain it. Similarly one who strictly follows karma-sannyāsa for a hundred lifetimes becomes qualified for the position of Brahmā. These posts are of this material world and hence limited; one has to compete and fight with others to attain them.
In Vaikuṇṭha, there is no kuṇṭha dharma. There are no fights. The objects there are endless in supply so there is no shortage for anyone. There, it is full of rasa. There are five types of rasa – śānta, dāsya, sakhya, vātsalya, mādhurya. Bhakti-mārga, the path of devotional service, is the only one devoid of jealousy or envy toward others.
INCOMPREHENSIBLE WITHOUT MERCY
Can Śukadeva Gosvāmī start reciting Śrīmad Bhāgavatam without offering praṇāms to his ārādhya-deva? You see, in the first śloka [of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam] he actually glorifies Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa and only then begins reciting Bhāgavatam. He is speaking in a deep and hidden way, so that not everyone can understand. In Śrīla Kavirāja Gosvāmī’s language-
ye lāgi kahite bhaya, se yadi nā jāne
ihā va-i kibā sukha āche tribhuvane
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Ādi-līlā, 4.236)
[For fear of them I do not wish to speak, but if they do not understand, then what can be happier in all the three worlds?]
janmādy asya yato ’nvayād itarataś cārtheṣv abhijñaḥsvarāṭ
Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (1.1.1)
[See Endnote 6]
Not everyone will understand this. In two words (anvaya and itarataś) Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī has indicated his worshipable Deities. Kṛṣṇa is anvaya and Rādhārāṇī is dvitīya. Anvaya is anu vaya, the one who walks behind. Who does Kṛṣṇa walk behind? Behind Rādhārāṇī, after She left the rāsa dance. And itara, dvitīya means Rādhārāṇī. He said this in such a way that not all will understand. Only the rasika jana will understand.
One has to be qualified to appreciate and experience their vicāra. This is only possible when they extend their mercy, otherwise it is not possible. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has himself told –
na bhaved grāhyam indriyaiḥ
sevonmukhe hi jihvādau
svayam eva sphuraty adaḥ
[The human material senses cannot perceive śrī harināma because it is a transcendental sound, but it will appear by itself on the pure senses of the sevonmukha sādhaka, in whose heart the desire to serve Kṛṣṇa has arisen.]
Kṛṣṇa’s name, form, qualities and pastimes cannot be comprehended using our senses. But if that is the case, how can we understand at all? Because the senses are all we have! Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī said “sevonmukhe hi jihvādau, svayam eva sphuraty adaḥ–When the citta vṛtti, inclination of the soul, becomes sevonmukha (inclined to serve) from bhogonmukha (inclined to enjoy), at that time it (the holy name) will manifest by itself. This is how these personalities give their mercy.
OBJECT OF PRAYERS OF OTHER GOSVĀMĪS
If Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī and Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī had not come, would anyone know about this Vraja-maṇḍala? Therefore Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī has prayed in Śrī Dāna-keli-cintāmaṇi (175):
["This fallen soul stands with a straw in his teeth and ceaselessly begs to attain the dust of the lotus feet of Śrīmad Rūpa Gosvāmī birth after birth."]
‘Śrīmad rūpa-padāmbhoja dhūliḥsyāṁjanma-janmani– my goal, life after life, is the dust of the lotus feet of Śrīmad Rūpa Gosvāmī ’
Similarly, Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura has prayed in Prārthanā (Song 16, verse 1):
śrī-rūpa-mañjarī-pada, sei mora sampada,
sei mora bhajana-pūjana
[The lotus feet of Śrī Rūpa Mañjarī are my treasure. They are the sole object of my bhajana and worship.]
Śrī Rūpa Mañjarī is my everything, including ‘sei mora vedera dharama - the dharma or the essence of the Vedas’. In the same prayer, he says that one attains perfection by attaining the lotus feet of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī - ‘anukūla habe vidhi, se-pade hôibe siddhi – When Providence becomes favorable, I shall attain Śrī Rūpa Mañjarī’s lotus feet’. But when will one experience this mood?
Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura is praying to attain the shelter of Rādhārāṇī’s dearmost priya-sakhī (intimate friend), Rūpa Mañjarī –
prabhu lokanātha kabe saṅge lôiyā ĵā’be
śrī rūpera pāda-padme more samarpibe
Prārthanā (Song 17, verse 4)
[When will my master, Śrī Lokanātha Gosvāmī, take me with him and offer me at Śrī Rūpa's lotus feet?]
When will my guru-pādapadma offer me at the feet of Śrī Rūpa?
This is the vicāra, goal, of the Gauḍīyas and these are very elevated topics.
In the end, he taught us how to worship. ‘Vraja-vadhū-vargeṇā yā kalpitā –– The most excellent method of worshipping Kṛṣṇa is that adopted by the gopīs, the young married damsels of Vraja.’ [Endnote 7]
When Kṛṣṇa played the flute, all the vraja-vadhūs went to meet Kṛṣṇa, being attracted to Him. There wasn’t any gopī who did not go to meet with Kṛṣṇa. But during the rāsa-līlā, Kṛṣṇa left all of them behind and went behind Rādhārāṇī [when She left the rāsa-līlā]. And Rūpa Gosvāmī is the dearmost of that same Rādhārāṇī. So our goal is very high and we must perform the appropriate sādhana to become qualified to attain that topmost goal.
Mahāprabhu said that without performing sādhana we cannot attain our goal.
sādhya-vastu sādhana vinā keha nāhi pāya
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 8.197)
[The goal of life (sādhya-vastu) cannot be achieved unless one accepts the appropriate process (sādhana).]