Śrī Svarūpa Dāmodara
[June 20, 2023 is the disappearance day of Śrī Svarūpa Dāmodara in Vṛndāvana, India. The following is an excerpt of a bhāva anuvāda of the kathā given by Śrīla Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja on the same tithi on July 6, 2016. Editors’ input: Additional text has been included in square brackets to facilitate the flow of content.]
Today is the Ratha-yātrā of Jagannātha and it is also the disappearance day of Svarūpa Dāmodara. By worldly considerations, Svarūpa Dāmodara was born in Navadvīpa. His earlier name was Puruṣottama Bhaṭṭācārya or Puruṣottama Ācārya.
When Śrī Caitanya-deva took sannyāsa, Puruṣottama Ācārya could no longer continue to reside in Navadvīpa due to the pain of separation from Śrī Caitanya-deva. Thus he went to Kāśī and accepted sannyāsa. But he did not accept the ‘yoga-paṭṭa’ (saffron-coloured dress). So, he just remained Dāmodara ‘Svarūpa’. [Endnote 1]
Later, when he discovered that Mahāprabhu was in Purī, he quickly went there. Upon seeing him, he paid obeisances at the lotus feet of Mahāprabhu and recited the following śloka (Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 10.119) -
heloddhūnita-khedayā viśadayā pronmīlad-āmodayā
śāmyac-chāstra-vivādayā rasa-dayā cittārpitonmādayā
śaśvad-bhakti-vinodayā sa-madayā mādhurya-maryādayā
śrī-caitanya dayā-nidhe tava dayā bhūyād amandodayā
[“O ocean of mercy, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu! Let there be an awakening of Your auspicious mercy, which easily drives away all kinds of material lamentation by making everything pure and blissful. Indeed, Your mercy awakens transcendental bliss and covers all material pleasures. By Your auspicious mercy, quarrels and disagreements arising among different scriptures are vanquished. Your auspicious mercy pours forth transcendental mellows and thus causes the heart to jubilate. Your mercy, which is full of joy, always stimulates devotional service and glorifies conjugal love of God. May transcendental bliss be awakened within my heart by Your causeless mercy.”]
“O Śrī Caitanya-deva! Your mercy is like ‘amanda udayā’, There is no inauspiciousness for anybody. You take away the material desires very easily. O Prabhu, I don’t possess even an iota of love towards Your lotus feet. That is why I left you and went to Kāśī.” Svarūpa Dāmodara uttered such words of humility.
THE TRANSCENDENTAL EXAMINER
If someone wrote anything, [composed poetry or verses, with the desire to present them to Śrī Caitanya-deva] Svarūpa Dāmodara would share it with Śrī Caitanya-deva only after first examining the contents. Otherwise he would not share it. [Svarūpa Dāmodara would correctly present them. Only then would Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu agree to listen. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu was never pleased to hear books or verses opposed to the conclusive statements of devotional service. The Lord did not like hearing rasābhāsa, the overlapping of transcendental mellows. It was the practice of Svarūpa Dāmodara Gosvāmī to examine all literatures to find out whether their conclusions were correct. Only then would he allow them to be heard by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. (Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta Madhya 10.112-114)]
SVARŪPA DĀMODARA IS A ŚUDDHA-VRAJAVĀSĪ
Although Svarūpa Dāmodara had never been to Vṛndāvana, Mahāprabhu addressed him as a śuddha-vrajavāsī.
iṅho dāmodara-svarūpa — śuddha-vrajavāsī aiśvarya nā jāne iṅho śuddha-preme bhāsi’
(Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta Madhya 14.217)
[“Svarūpa Dāmodara is a pure devotee of Vṛndāvana. He does not even know what opulence is, for he is simply absorbed in pure devotional service.”]
AN INTIMATE ASSOCIATE OF CAITANYA MAHĀPRABHU
In the last twelve years of His stay in Purī, Mahāprabhu spent His time taking shelter of the kīrtanas of Svarūpa Dāmodara and the ślokas of Rāmānanda Rāya. That is why Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī has mentioned in Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 2.77 –
caṇḍīdāsa, vidyāpati, rāyera nāṭaka-gīti,
svarūpa-rāmānanda-sane, mahāprabhu rātri-dine,
gāya, śune--parama ānanda
[He also passed His time reading the books and singing the songs of Caṇḍīdāsa and Vidyāpati, and listening to quotations from the Jagannātha-vallabha-nāṭaka, Kṛṣṇa-karṇāmṛta and Gīta-govinda. Thus in the association of Svarūpa Dāmodara and Rāya Rāmānanda, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu passed His days and nights chanting and hearing with great pleasure.]
Svarūpa Dāmodara knew the heart of Śrī Caitanya-deva very well and used to sing kīrtanas according to time and circumstances. [Śrī Svarūpa Dāmodara used to read the poems of Vidyāpati and Caṇḍīdāsa and Jayadeva Gosvāmī’s Śrī Gīta-govinda. He used to make Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu very happy by singing these songs. Svarūpa Dāmodara was as expert a musician as the Gandharvas, and in scriptural discussion he was just like Bṛhaspati, the priest of the heavenly gods. Therefore it is to be concluded that there was no great personality quite like Svarūpa Dāmodara. (Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta Madhya 10. 115-116)] Rāmānanda Rāya is Viśākha and in the opinion of some, Lalitā. Mahāprabhu used to spend time only with these two in His last days. He did not spend time with anybody else.
That glorious Svarūpa Dāmodara left this world on this day.
sannyāsa karilā śikhā-sūtra-tyāga-rūpa
yoga-paṭṭa nā nila, nāma haila ‘svarūpa
(Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya, 10.108)
Upon accepting sannyāsa, Puruṣottama Ācārya followed the regulative principles by giving up his tuft of hair and sacred thread, but he did not accept the saffron-colored dress. Also, he did not accept a sannyāsī title but remained as a naiṣṭhika-brahmacārī.